IIf you want to learn more about the Middle East, Raphael Badani is your assistant.
As a columnist for Newsmax’s “insiders”, he has thought about how Iraq can get rid of Iran’s influence to attract investment, and why Dubai is a stable oasis in a turbulent area. His career as a “geopolitical risk consultant and interactive simulation designer” and as a “senior analyst in international relations” at the US Department of Labor have given him many insights into the Middle East. He printed these insights on a series of conservative media, such as Washington Check[R[R, RealClear Market, American thinkers and national interests.
Unfortunately, Rafael Badani does not exist for the store that published his article and the readers who believed in them.
His profile photo was stolen from the blog of an unknown San Diego startup founder. His profile on LinkedIn is also fictitious, and the profile describes him as a graduate of George Washington and Georgetown.
Badani is part of a network of at least 1
On Monday, after “Daily Beast” shared its findings on the network to violate the company’s “platform manipulation and spam policy”, Twitter suspended Badani’s account with 15 other users.
A Twitter spokesperson said in a statement: “Using technology, personnel reviews, and partnerships with researchers and other independent organizations working on these issues, we will strive to identify and take action on the platforms we serve.” “According to standards If we have reasonable evidence to attribute any activity to state-supported information actions, we will disclose it to our public files after a thorough investigation.”
Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, said: “This huge influence action highlights how malicious actors can easily use the identity of real people. , Deceive the international news media, and legalize the propaganda of unknown sources through well-known media.” Qatar first noticed suspicious posts by network members and told “The Daily Beast”. “This is not only false news that we need to be alert to, but also false reporters.”
The network’s craze targeted a series of publications and published articles criticizing Qatar in some conservative North American media, and in articles such as Human Events and Conservative Writer Andy Ngo’s “Post-Millennium “Israel and Middle East newspapers support the implementation of tougher sanctions against Iran. Jerusalem post with Al ArabiyaAnd such as South China Morning Post.
Bundling the network together is a series of shared behavior patterns. The roles identified in “Daily Beast” are usually contributors to two linked locations, “Arabian Eye” and “Persian Now”; Twitter account was created in March or April 2020; served as political consultant and freelance journalist, mostly based in European capitals; lying about their academic or professional certificates in fake LinkedIn accounts; using forged or stolen avatars to manipulate to defeat reverse image search; and linking or amplifying each other’s work.
Her author’s biography says that the earliest post of characters in the network dates back to July 2019 and was written by the fake “South Asia Regional Security Analyst” Lin Nguyen. Nguyen and another character, Cindy Xi, have written many articles on East Asia issues, especially the economic situation of Hong Kong in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the network quickly developed and expanded and expanded its focus to the Middle East. In February, two websites were registered on the same day, “Eyes of Arabia” and “Persia Now”, and began to obtain many donors.
Ironically, the “Arabian Eye” describes itself as a bulwark against “fake news” and biased narratives, and its mission is “now more important than ever, to hear the aisle on the Middle East The view of the problem is east.”
These sites may not seem to be linked to external observers, but a search of the RiskIQ database shows that the two sites share the same Google Analytics account, are hosted on the same IP address, and are linked by a series of shared encryption certificates.
Like most contributors, these sites themselves seem to be fake.
Persia now lists non-existent London mailing addresses and unanswered phone numbers on its contact form. The obvious editors of the two outlets, Sharif O’Neill and Taimur Hall, have almost no online footprints or news reports.
In Persian Now, The Eye of Arabia, and many other publications, fake contributors have adopted similar themes in their submissions. They criticized Qatar, especially its state-funded news media Al Jazeera. They are not loyal supporters of Turkey’s role in supporting a faction in the Libyan civil war, and call it “bad news”, aimed at “limiting the flow of vital energy to Europe” and “dividing” NATO with Libya. “
There are constant editorials, such as advocating more sanctions on Iran or using international influence to weaken Iran’s proxy groups in Lebanon and Iraq. These characters are also loyal supporters of the United Arab Emirates, and are commended for their “model resilience” to the COVID-19 pandemic, “solid diplomatic relations” with the European Union, and alleged support for gender equality through the United Nations. Expo 2020 in Dubai.
Recently, these figures have begun to criticize Facebook’s decision to appoint its 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman as its oversight committee. The media in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have all criticized Karman’s connection with the organization, who was a former member of the Islah Party affiliated with the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood.
In the snippets provided for the Jewish News Service, the Asian Times, the political website and the Middle East Online, the network hailed Kalman as “evil political figure with a suspicious history”, which would make Facebook an “extreme Islamic ideology” Preferred platform.”
None of the Twitter accounts associated with the network have more than dozens of followers, but there are still a few people who have received high recognition in their work. Student Joyce Toledano (Joyce Toledano) published an article in “Human Events” about Qatar’s “destruction of stability in the Middle East” news, was warmly welcomed by students. Views on Facebook and Tawakkol Karman.
The characters on the network mix stolen or AI-generated avatars and fake biographies to make them look more reasonable.
The “Raphael Badani” Twitter account uses Barry Dadon, a real businessman and startup founder in San Diego, as the source of his profile photo. Without his consent or ignorance, the account owner took a Twitter profile photo from Dadon’s blog and stole a photo from Dadon’s wife’s Facebook page on the Badon Newsmax columnist page.
A counterfeit Finnish businessman “Mikael Virtanen”, a fake Finnish businessman who wrote articles about the Middle East for the Jewish News Agency, stole his avatar from a free image database. Other incarnations were stolen from Vietnamese analysts at a Singapore financial consulting firm and a California insurance agent.
All stolen avatars are mirror-inverted and cropped from their original images, which makes them difficult to find through the common Google reverse image search.
The forged contributors also seem to use AI-generated avatars to express their roles. A high-resolution profile photo of the character of Joseph Labba, published in an article in the Millennium Post, shows some of the obvious failures commonly seen in AI-generated faces. The left ear is strangely smooth, without any lobes. Sam Meyer, a researcher at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, used the image analysis software to view Labba’s photos. He also noticed that there appeared to be three wrong teeth in his mouth, and there should be four.
Dentist Dr. Leonard Kundel said: “This mouth looks fake or there are some sad dental stories behind it.” “The third tooth from the center is not true for me It’s obvious if you compare it to the dog on the other side.”
“In addition,” Kundell said, “the two anterior teeth don’t look like they belong to this mouth. They are both narrower than they should be and slightly moved forward, whiter and chalkier.”
Other avatars (such as those used by the characters Lisa Moore and Joyce Toledano) overlapped with each other and displayed unusual symmetrical features, with eyes, mouth, and eyebrows almost aligned.
The backstory used to support online credibility is also false. Some authors pretend to be freelancers or former journalists. On her LinkedIn page, “Salma Mohamed” claimed to be a former reporter for The Associated Press in London, although there was no public record of an Associated Press reporter who matched Salma Mohamed’s description.
Another character, Amani Shahan, in biographies of “Global Villages” and “Persia Now” described himself as a contributor and “ghostwriter” of “The Daily Beast”. No one has written such a name for “Daily Beast”, and “Daily Beast” does not employ a ghostwriter. (Shahan also uses the male and female pronouns in different author biographies to refer to himself.)
Others lie about their academic qualifications. In articles published in the “ASEAN Post”, “Malaysia Reserve” and “Manila Times”, Cindy West received a Ph.D. from the National University of Singapore and became “Singapore Research Analyst for Private Sector Customers”. The NUS said in an e-mail, “It is not possible to retrieve past records in the department’s database,” matching Xi Jinping’s name. James Madison University searched the undergraduate degree called Navid Barani from the National Student Clearinghouse database, but the result was blank.
Sometimes, the operators of the network show a kind of naughty irony or a complete lack of self-awareness. One of its earliest works, “How Qatar Uses Fake Information Strategies to Attack Competitors,” complained about the state-funded broadcast of Al Jazeera, and lamented that “Scenery highlights an interesting case study of how fake news affects regional political discourse.” ”
This work is also the only public evidence that someone may have an understanding of the forgery of the network. The editor of the International Policy Digest was released in September 2019 and quickly deleted the article with a note stating that it was “deleted in response to criticism of the source of the article” and stated that “we are I regret its publication.”
Not that this caused a lot of trouble to the network. A few days later, in the “Asian Times”, “Lin Ruan” published an article on a similar topic, slamming Qatar “for making misinformation into a currency of soft power.” By November, Michel Haddad, another character of the network, returned to the international policy summary.