An investigation published by Eekad, the region’s first open-source intelligence platform, has revealed on Saturday that a massive network of Moroccan-linked social media accounts fervently advocating for Israel are bots.
These accounts, claiming to be Moroccan, have been in the spotlight for their consistent criticism of Palestinians, their strong opposition to military actions taken against Israel, and their rejection of any form of Palestinian resistance amidst ongoing Israeli attacks in Gaza.
These accounts are active on various social media platforms, including Facebook and YouTube, where they consistently echo messages favoring the Israel.
Eekad’s analysis suggests that over 22,000 of these accounts are likely fake. They often try to mimic Moroccan identities, but their tweets give them away with flawed Arabic, limited followers, fake profiles, and a habit of repeating the same narratives and phrases.
The accounts create detailed personas with backgrounds, research credentials, and even fake images, making them seem credible, showed the investigation.
Once they’re part of the social media landscape, these fabricated identities are used to boost engagement, much like what Eekad found in their previous investigation into Israeli-Egyptian bot farms.
The investigation unveiled a case involving an account named David Levy, who claims to be a Moroccan jew. This account presented itself as a researcher, university professor, writer, and political analyst with an extensive list of research publications.
However, upon closer examination, it was discovered that the persona known as David Levy was fabricated, and the profile image used was generated using AI, and a strikingly similar picture was traced back to Pinterest.
David Levy, a person who has no tangible presence, has a history of criticizing Algerians, which has worsened the divide between Moroccans and Algerians, and he frequently engaged with accounts that fueled this hostility.
Similarly, a Youtube account by the name of Ahmad Al Hmadi underwent a swift transformation. Initially, Al Hamdi claimed to be Moroccan and used his account to criticize Algeria in several posts. However, he subsequently adopted an Algerian persona, where he began denouncing Morocco and its efforts towards normalization
Eekad’s thorough analysis uncovered some telltale signs of orchestrated bot activity, such as repeatedly using the same phrases, copying emojis in a systematic way, interacting with specific accounts in a uniform manner, and even changing their location settings to Morocco.
These findings strongly suggest that these accounts aren’t acting independently but are part of a coordinated effort to construct a narrative of Moroccan support for Israel.
Digging deeper into these accounts and their past interactions reveals a common thread. Notably, their increased activity can be traced back to December 2020, which aligns with the emergence of the Arab-Israeli normalization pacts.
This hints at a deliberate strategy to pave the way for normalization and gain broader support leading up to Morocco’s diplomatic alignment with Israel.
One of the most intriguing discoveries is the sudden and significant surge in account activity starting in August 2022. This coincides with Eekad’s earlier findings related to increased activity within Israeli-Egyptian bot farms and the recent discovery of Israeli-Saudi bot farms.
This pattern strongly suggests, according to Eekad, that a single entity is orchestrating these bot farms to push a specific agenda among Arab users, regardless of where they’re from.
A closer look at the numbers reveals a significant increase in the activity of accounts connected to the Israel-Moroccan bot farms, starting in August and only intensifying since then.
The timeline of this surge can be split into two phases: the first one, beginning before December 2020 and lasting until the notable increase in August 2022, and the second one, from August 2022 to the present day, where the number of these accounts tripled, accompanied by a threefold increase in their engagement.
This investigation revealed similar patterns on Facebook and YouTube, which mirror the activities on various other platforms.
Facebook accounts associated with the bot network often share the same messages and became noticeably more active in August 2022. Similarly, on YouTube, accounts transformed their personas and viewpoints suddenly.
Eekad’s investigation is part of a broader mission to shed light on the behind-the-scenes work of bot farms that manipulate conversations in the Arab world.
This comprehensive investigation reveals not only the coordinated efforts to influence narratives but also raises important questions about how such activities impact public opinion, political discourse, and regional relations.