Podcast Ep 7: Behind Israel’s troll army

On episode 7, Nora Barrows-Friedman and Asa Winstanley host a discussion about Act.IL, an online influence campaign funded by the Israeli government.

They are joined by Michael Bueckert, who’s been behind some of the most vital research on the group, publishing much of it to his @AntiBDSApp Twitter account.

Bueckert tells us how he first got interested in looking into this organization, and we discuss to what extent Israel is actively involved in directing its operations.

As Asa recently reported, Act.IL says its goal is to “influence foreign publics” and “battle” BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.

Through its app, Act.IL issues “missions” to this troll army in exchange for “cool prizes” and scholarships.

A leaked report claims Act.IL’s app completes 1,580 such “missions” every week.

“A lot of the power of the app comes from concealing or sort of obscuring the real authors behind a lot of this content to try to make it appear as though it is organic, spontaneous online activity … when it is actually choreographed and directed by this app,” Bueckert tells The Electronic Intifada Podcast.

Articles we discussed

Music: “The Death of Neoliberalism” by Lowkey

Image: Still from a video on Act.IL’s YouTube channel

Production assistance by Sharif Zakout

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Of course, every nefarious creed must try to pass itself off as respectable. Morality is normative. We are moral like we are linguistic. It's part of our biological inheritance. Do the Zionists know what they are doing is wrong? Of course, or they wouldn't need to conceal it. Do they know their claim on Palestine and Transjordan is falsely based? Of course. But every form of power which seeks for itself an exception from common standards has to try to hide its motivation. There is a world consensus that State boundaries are determined by law, not by reference to the Old Testament. This is the common standard the Zionists reject. If the descendants of every community which occupied some portion of the earth three thousand years ago were now to claim the right to that portion, what would the result be? Crazy. We are in the 21st century. Law determines national boundaries. But the Zionists can't accept that because they claim genetic entitlement. Hence their constant need to don the clothes of those who do, to pretend to be people of principle. The desire for power is not a principle. It is the refutation of all principle.

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).