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An artificial intelligence-powered chatbot created by New York City to help small business owners is under criticism for dispensing bizarre advice that misstates local policies and advises companies to violate the law.

But days after the issues were first reported last week by tech news outlet The Markup, the city has opted to leave the tool on its official government website. Mayor Eric Adams defended the decision this week even as he acknowledged the chatbot’s answers were “wrong in some areas.”

Launched in October as a “one-stop shop” for business owners, the chatbot offers users algorithmically generated text responses to questions about navigating the city’s bureaucratic maze.

It includes a disclaimer that it may “occasionally produce incorrect, harmful or biased” information and the caveat, since-strengthened, that its answers are not legal advice.

In responses to questions posed Wednesday, the chatbot falsely suggested it is legal for an employer to fire a worker who complains about sexual harassment, doesn’t disclose a pregnancy or refuses to cut their dreadlocks. Contradicting two of the city’s signature waste initiatives, it claimed that businesses can put their trash in black garbage bags and are not required to compost.

At times, the bot’s answers veered into the absurd. Asked if a restaurant could serve cheese nibbled on by a rodent, it responded: “Yes, you can still serve the cheese to customers if it has rat bites,” before adding that it was important to assess the “the extent of the damage caused by the rat” and to “inform customers about the situation.”

A spokesperson for Microsoft, which powers the bot through its Azure AI services, said the company was working with city employees “to improve the service and ensure the outputs are accurate and grounded on the city’s official documentation.”

At a press conference Tuesday, Adams, a Democrat, suggested that allowing users to find issues is just part of ironing out kinks in new technology.

“Anyone that knows technology knows this is how it’s done,” he said. “Only those who are fearful sit down and say, ‘Oh, it is not working the way we want, now we have to run away from it all together.’ I don’t live that way.”

Stoyanovich called that approach “reckless and irresponsible.”

Scientists have long voiced concerns about the drawbacks of these kinds of large language models, which are trained on troves of text pulled from the internet and prone to spitting out answers that are inaccurate and illogical.

But as the success of ChatGPT and other chatbots have captured the public attention, private companies have rolled out their own products, with mixed results. Earlier this month, a court ordered Air Canada to refund a customer after a company chatbot misstated the airline’s refund policy. Both TurboTax and H&R Block have faced recent criticism for deploying chatbots that give out bad tax-prep advice.

Jevin West, a professor at the University of Washington and co-founder of the Center for an Informed Public, said the stakes are especially high when the models are promoted by the public sector.

“There’s a different level of trust that’s given to government,” West said. “Public officials need to consider what kind of damage they can do if someone was to follow this advice and get themselves in trouble.”

Experts say other cities that use chatbots have typically confined them to a more limited set of inputs, cutting down on misinformation.

Ted Ross, the chief information officer in Los Angeles, said the city closely curated the content used by its chatbots, which do not rely on large language models.

The pitfalls of New York’s chatbot should serve as a cautionary tale for other cities, said Suresh Venkatasubramanian, the director of the Center for Technological Responsibility, Reimagination, and Redesign at Brown University.

“It should make cities think about why they want to use chatbots, and what problem they are trying to solve,” he wrote in an email. “If the chatbots are used to replace a person, then you lose accountability while not getting anything in return.”

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Happy anniversary!

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Are you fucking kidding me?

I've read a lot of news over the years, but I cannot even conceive of something I've ever encountered that is this egregious.

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Some might think this is a politics story. To view it as that rather than an indictment of what the media are doing is to buy into their bullshit.

Succinctly, this is the sort of thing that made me leave corporate media. There is no longer the slightest veneer of the point of the exercise being to inform their audience, but rather to tell them what to think under the guise of impartial news.

We are here because of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which slightly predates my involvement in print journalism. Justia explains:

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 directed the FCC to review its media ownership rules every four years. The FCC sought to loosen its restrictions in 2002 and 2006, but a federal court struck down the revised rules. In 2017, though, the FCC revoked the cross-ownership rules. Limits on ownership of local television stations also were loosened. The FCC noted the decline of the newspaper industry and the expansion of non-traditional media outlets, including the Internet, in explaining its decision. While a federal court initially wiped out the repeal, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed in April 2021 and allowed the cross-ownership rules to end. However, the FCC has returned to Democrat [sic] control under President Joseph Biden, which could lead to another shift in the rules.

Emphasis mine. There are vanishingly few independent local media sources as a result of this consolidation, but the net result has not been what the GOP likes to hammer away at, choosing instead to do their usual Goebbels-approved thing of accusing anyone else of using their tactics as cover for what is actually happening.

The WSJ used to have news coverage independent of editorial, and in this instance, you're expected to believe that is still the case, then be unaware of who's writing scripts for local news because you're not watching in another market, et voila! Sanitizing propaganda and serving it as service journalism.

ETA: Here's the original reporting.

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link to complete data slides

  • slide1: Debt Share by Product Type and Age, 2024Q1 (image attached)
  • slide2: Debt balance vs GDP per capita, state
  • slide3: Mortgage debt balance per capita in selected state
  • slide4: Auto loan debt balance per capita in selected state
  • slide5: Student loan balance per capita in selected state
  • slide6: Credit card balance per capita in selected state
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It’s a day of reckoning today for Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and a long-awaited culmination for the Sandy Hook families who sued Jones for defamation. A federal bankruptcy judge in Texas is expected to force Jones to liquidate his personal assets, including ownership of his media company, Free Speech Systems, in order to pay families nearly $1.5 billion in damages for spreading lies that the 2012 school shooting never happened.

Jones' influential Infowars show and website could be shut down by the end of the day, and his personal belongings — from his gun collection to his jewelry — could soon be auctioned to the highest bidder in something of a fire sale. He could even lose access to his account on X, where he currently has 2.3 million followers. However, Texas law allows him to keep his home, which is worth more than $2 million.

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An incredibly rare white bison calf has been photographed in Yellowstone National Park, exciting Native American tribes who view it as a religious sign heralding major change.

It was spotted in the Lamar Valley area, and is the first white bison to be born in the last wild herd in the US, according to modern records.

Other recent white bison births have happened in captivity and from parents that contained cow DNA. Tribes consider a wild birth more religiously significant.

Montana photographer Erin Braaten took photos of the young buffalo in the Lamar Valley on 4 June while visiting the park with three of her eight children.

Stuck in traffic caused by a slow-moving herd, she noticed the young calf across a river, nearly 100 metres (330ft) away, and initially mistook it for a coyote because of its sandy light colour.

"There were so many different thoughts and emotions," Braaten told the BBC.

"It was so amazing. I thought I'd have a better chance of capturing Bigfoot than a white bison calf."

The birth of a white buffalo is a sacred event for many Native tribes of the Great Plains, including the Lakota people, who believe that it relates to a time around 2,000 years ago when food was scarce and the bison were rarely seen.

The Lakota legend tells of a beautiful woman who appeared and delivered the gifts of a sacred pipe and bundle to the people.

The woman told them she would return to restore harmony in a troubled world, and then rolled on the ground four times, changing colour each time before becoming a white buffalo calf.

Her departure led the bison to return, and white buffalos are now seen as a sign that prayers are being heard and that change is coming.

The white buffalo woman is considered the central prophet in the theology of many tribes including the Sioux, Cherokee, Comanche and Navajo.

Her story is often likened to that of Jesus in Christianity.

Simon Moya-Smith, an Oglala Lakota writer who was also raised on the white buffalo woman's story, told the BBC that tradition says the arrival of a white calf is seen as both a "blessing and a warning".

Every time a white calf is seen, "you have this prophecy of something good or something bad will happen. But we know that it's going to be great - great in the sense that it's going to be significant".

Mr Moya-Smith said that tribes were working to interpret the meaning of the calf's arrival.

Yellowstone park officials have not officially confirmed the birth of the calf.

An event to celebrate its arrival is planned for 26 June in the town of West Yellowstone, Montana, and is being hosted by Buffalo Field Campaign, a group that advocates for the buffalo.

Lakota elders will attend the event and other tribes may send delegates.

Chief Arvol Looking Horse, who is the 19th generation keeper of the pipe believed to have been given by the white buffalo woman, said that the calf's arrival was a sign "we must do more".

"All nations should come together at their sacred places and unify with us in prayer," he said. He called the calf's arrival "a blessing and a warning".

"I'm so overwhelmed. It's a miracle," the spiritual leader told BBC News on Thursday.

"It makes my hairs stand up just to even talk about it, because I can't believe this is happening - the spirit of the white buffalo calf woman sending a message to us."

He noted that the calf seen in Yellowstone had black eyes, a black nose and black hooves, as the prophecy predicted.

The National Bison Association estimates that only one to two white bison are born each year.

According to Chief Looking Horse, there has been a white buffalo alive in North America at almost all times since 1994, when a calf named Miracle was born on a farm in Wisconsin.

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An annual report from the Southern Poverty Law Center describes a burgeoning new form of Christian supremacy sweeping the country.

A growing Christian supremacist movement that labels its perceived enemies as “demonic” and enjoys close ties to major Republican figures is “the greatest threat to American democracy you’ve never heard of,” according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The SPLC, a civil rights organization that monitors extremist groups, released its “Year In Hate And Extremism 2023” report on Tuesday. A significant portion of the report, which tracked burgeoning anti-democratic and neo-fascist movements and actors across America, is devoted to the New Apostolic Reformation, “a new and powerful Christian supremacy movement that is attempting to transform culture and politics in the U.S. and countries across the world into a grim authoritarianism.”

Emerging out of the charismatic evangelical tradition, the NAR adheres to a form of Christian dominionism, meaning its parishioners believe it’s their divine duty to seize control of every political and cultural institution in America, transforming them according to a fundamentalist interpretation of scripture.

NAR adherents also believe in the existence of modern-day “apostles” and “prophets” — church leaders endowed by God with supernatural abilities, including the power to heal. In 2022, a handful of these “apostles,” the report notes, issued what they called the Watchman Decree, an anti-democratic document envisioning the end of a pluralistic society in America.

The apostles claimed they had been given “legal power and authority from Heaven” and are “God’s ambassadors and spokespeople over the earth,” who “are equipped and delegated by Him to destroy every attempted advance of the enemy.”

And who’s the enemy? Basically anyone who does not adhere to NAR beliefs. NAR adherents see their critics as being literally controlled by the devil.

“There are claims that whole neighborhoods, cities, even nations are under the sway of the demonic,” the report states. “Other religions, such as Islam, are also said to be demonically influenced. One cannot compromise with evil, and so if Democrats, liberals, LGBTQ+ people, and others are seen as demonic, political compromise — the heart of democratic life — becomes difficult if not impossible.”

This rhetoric has become increasingly widespread among Republican lawmakers, including former President Donald Trump, who last year referred to Marxists and atheists as “evil demonic forces that want to destroy our country.”

That Trump would use NAR-inspired rhetoric is unsurprising considering his relationship with Paula White-Cain, an NAR figure who delivered the invocation at Trump’s inauguration in 2017 and at the kickoff of his 2020 reelection campaign, as noted by Paul Rosenberg in Salon. White-Cain also delivered the invocation at Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C. — the event that eventually became the insurrection at the Capitol.

The attack on the Capitol was largely inspired, the report suggests, by NAR’s theology of dominionism. “NAR prayer groups were mobilized at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as well as supporting prayer teams all over the country, to exorcise the demonic influence over the Capitol that adherents said was keeping Trump from his rightful, prophesized second term,” the report states.

Major Republican figures took part in such events on or around the day of the attack. Mike Johnson, who is now the speaker of the House, joined the NAR’s “Global Prayer for Election Integrity,” which called for Trump’s reinstatement as president, in the weeks leading up to the attack on the Capitol. Johnson has also stated that Jim Garlow, an NAR leader, has had a “profound influence” on his life.

House Speaker Mike Johnson has ties to the extremist New Apostolic Reformation movement. Johnson is a student of 'dominionist minister' David Barton who aims at stripping government of functions such as education and welfare, and reserve those for like-minded dominionist churches.

Ultimately, the SPLC report is an attempt to ring the alarm bells about the NAR, ”the greatest threat to U.S. democracy that you have never heard of.

"It is already a powerful, wealthy and influential movement and composes a highly influential block of one of the two main political parties in the country,” the report continues. “So few people have heard of NAR that it is possible that, without resistance in our local communities, dominionism might win without ever having been truly opposed.”

The SPLC’s report, according to a press release, also documents 595 hate groups and 835 antigovernment extremist groups in America, “including a growing wave of white nationalism increasingly motivated by theocratic beliefs and conspiracy theories.”

“With a historic election just months away, this year, more than any other, we must act to preserve our democracy,” Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center and SPLC Action Fund, said in a statement. “That will require us to directly address the danger of hate and extremism from our schools to our statehouses. Our report exposes these far-right extremists and serves as a tool for advocates and communities working to counter disinformation, false conspiracies and threats to voters and election workers.”

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Crystal Mason was convicted of voter fraud after the 2016 election, when she cast a ballot without realizing she was ineligible to vote.

  • Several Republican-led states have created units to investigate and pursue voter fraud charges. One of those units, in Florida, has filed dozens of cases for people who have prior felony convictions and were confused about their eligibility to vote. In the initial wave of 20 people who were arrested, 14 were Black.

  • People with felony convictions make ripe targets for politicians wanting to send a message about voter fraud. Since the Jim Crow era, states have barred former felons from voting, a practice that kept many African Americans from the polls even after they were constitutionally granted the right to vote.

  • As of 2022, an estimated 4.4 million people – 2% of the adult eligible population – couldn’t vote because of a felony conviction, according to a 2022 analysis by the Sentencing Project (Link opens a pdf), a criminal-justice non-profit. Around 5% of voting-age African Americans can’t vote because of a felony conviction – a rate more than three times higher than other Americans.

  • The vast majority of people who can’t vote because of a felony – about 75% – are not in prison – but they are an easy target for perceived voter fraud. Since they are branded criminals, there’s little public sympathy for their cases; those charged often have little interest in speaking out publicly.

  • Perhaps no state has deployed this strategy [of intimidating voters with a criminal history] more aggressively than Florida. In 2022, the state governor, Ron DeSantis, created the office of election crimes and security, a first-of-its-kind agency to crack down on election fraud, which is exceedingly rare. That summer, DeSantis held a televised press conference announcing the arrests of more than 20 people for illegally voting. The press conference announcing the arrest was a spectacle – DeSantis appeared at in a courtroom, flanked by uniformed law enforcement officers. All of the people charged had prior murder or sexual offenses, which made them permanently ineligible to vote in Florida.

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Archived version

Bipartisan talks in the Senate over possible sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC) have hit a standstill, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Deciding how strongly to respond to the court's decision to seek an arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has become a politically thorny issue ahead of the 2024 election.

  • Discussions between top Senate Democratic and GOP negotiators have hit a wall, two sources familiar with the talks told Axios.
  • No discussions between the groups led by Foreign Relations Committee chair Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the panel's top Republican are planned.
  • Cardin, though, is continuing to talk with Republicans not on the committee about a response to the ICC's move, one of the sources said.

Republicans have demanded a vote on a House bill that slaps sanctions on the ICC, while Democrats have pushed for a more tame approach.

The absence of a bipartisan solution in the Senate could doom any chances of Congress passing an ICC-related bill, shifting the responsibility for disciplining the court onto the White House.

The big picture: Republicans have used the ICC discussions to shine a light on internal Democratic divisions over Israel.

  • Republicans have been in near lockstep in their support of Israel, but Democrats have dealt with differences between moderates and progressives over Netanyahu's handling of the war in Gaza.
  • Some Democrats have voiced support for sanctions against the ICC, but others are weary about permanently damaging the U.S. relationship with the court.

The White House also has publicly said that it does not support sanctions against the ICC.

Catch up quick: Lawmakers have discussed other options in responding to the ICC, including cutting U.S. support for some of the court's programs.

  • The House passed a bill last week that would require sanctions and visa restrictions on foreigners working for or funding the ICC in prosecutions targeting the U.S. and its allies.
  • Senate Republicans have demanded that the House bill get a vote in the Senate.

Behind the scenes: Republicans feel like the bipartisan talks were never real or substantial, one Senate GOP aide told Axios.

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- Four US university tutors are in hospital after they were stabbed by an unknown assailant at a public park in China.

- Images circulating on Chinese social media appear to show at least three people bleeding and lying on the ground, but were apoarently quickly censored by authorites.

The Iowa Cornell College instructors were injured in a "serious incident" during a daytime visit to the park in Jilin province, northern China, a college statement said.

Iowa Representative Adam Zabner said his brother, David, was one of the four injured in the incident, which he described as a stabbing.

He said the group had been visiting a local temple on Monday when they were attacked by a man with a knife.

Mr Zabner said his brother had been stabbed in the arm at Beishan Park and was recovering in hospital.

"He has not yet been released this morning but he's doing ok," he told CBS News.

A US State Department spokesperson told the BBC they were aware of reports of a stabbing incident in Jilin, but could not provide more information.

Cornell College said the four instructors had been teaching "as part of a partnership with a university in China". The group had been accompanied by a member of Beihua University at the time of their visit to the park on Monday.

Chinese authorities are yet to respond on the incident, however images of the aftermath were quickly shared on social media.

Images circulating appear to show at least three people bleeding and lying on the ground.

However the incident appears to have been quickly censored on China's internet.

On Tuesday, searches for terms such as "foreigners Jilin" produced no results despite the search term trending on Weibo.

Internet users instead resorted to discussions under adjacent topics while some were also seen asking for more information about the incident.

There have also few reports about the incident in Chinese state media.

Mr Zabner said his brother, a Tufts University doctoral student, had visited China before and was on his second trip to the country with Cornell College.

Amid tense diplomatic relations, Beijing and Washington have sought to re-establish people-to-people exchanges in recent times.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has unveiled a plan to invite 50,000 young Americans to China in the next five years, while Chinese diplomats say a travel advisory by the US State Department has discouraged Americans from going to China.

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data slides

  • slide1: Sales within the US by category (image attached)
  • slide2: Average amount spent on cats & dogs in past 12 month
  • slide3: Pet ownership, household count
  • slide4: Pet ownership by generation
  • slide5: Petco quarterly revenue by category
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- Pressure mounts to fully implement Uyghur forced labor law - Republican letter seeks details on Treasury sanctions

Republican senators on Thursday urged Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to share how the department plans to enforce and expand sanctions to combat use of forced labor in China.

The effort, led by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), comes amid heightened calls for stricter enforcement of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a two-year old law that assumes any product made with goods even partially sourced from the Xinjiang region of China is tied to forced labor unless a company can prove otherwise.

US government and media reports show that Uyghurs and other Muslim citizens have been held in prison camps in Xinjiang and forced to harvest cotton, for example. China has repeatedly denied that it is committing such human rights abuses.

The Department of Treasury “is a key implementing partner in ensuring the enforcement and effectiveness of US efforts to ensure that not a single good produced with Uyghur forced labor makes its way into US markets,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Yellen. Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) joined Blackburn in signing the letter.

Lawmakers asked Treasury to produce a list of individuals and entities it’s sanctioned in connection with Uyghur forced labor, as well as a “detailed explanation of Treasury’s activities to enforce these sanctions.” They asked for the report by June 21.

The letter noted that Treasury was granted authorities under the 2022 Uyghur forced labor law and the 2012 Global Magnitsky Act to establish sanctions for human rights abuses. Treasury is part of a Department of Homeland Security-led task force that focuses on keeping goods made with forced labor out of the US.

“The Biden administration has no lack of tools to hold the CCP to account, and yet it has struggled to make full use of these authorities,” the letter said.

The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Yellen testified at a March hearing before the Senate Finance Committee that she agreed Treasury and the Biden administration should impose sanctions on companies linked to human rights violations occurring in Xinjiang. “There is no appeasement, I want to assure you on this matter,” Yellen said at the time.

Lawmakers also asked Treasury to explain specifically why it hasn’t taken further measures against subsidiaries of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), a state-owned enterprise. The Treasury Department under the Trump administration in 2020 sanctioned XPCC over alleged human rights abuses against Uyghurs. The lawmakers asked the department to issue a plan to sanction XPCC ‘s subsidiaries this year.

XPCC was also put on a Homeland Security list in 2022 that points to companies the agency says produce or manufacture goods from forced labor in Xinjiang. DHS recently expanded the list of allegedly problematic companies and has pledged to broaden it even more this year.

Banning Chinese Battery Makers

Also on Thursday, lawmakers including Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) announced that they sent a letter to Homeland Security calling on the department to put a few Chinese battery makers on its banned entity list.

The letter alleges, for example, that battery maker Gotion High Tech does business with companies linked to forced labor, including XPCC.

The forced labor enforcement boost comes amid bipartisan efforts to counter China as an economic and national security threat, as well as to encourage manufacturing closer to home.

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Archived version

Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs ordered the operation, which used fake social media accounts urging U.S. lawmakers to fund Israel’s military, according to officials and documents about the effort.

Israel organized and paid for an influence campaign last year targeting U.S. lawmakers and the American public with pro-Israel messaging, as it aimed to foster support for its actions in the war with Gaza, according to officials involved in the effort and documents related to the operation.

The covert campaign was commissioned by Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, a government body that connects Jews around the world with the State of Israel, four Israeli officials said. The ministry allocated about $2 million to the operation and hired Stoic, a political marketing firm in Tel Aviv, to carry it out, according to the officials and the documents.

The campaign began in October and remains active on the platform X. At its peak, it used hundreds of fake accounts that posed as real Americans on X, Facebook and Instagram to post pro-Israel comments. The accounts focused on U.S. lawmakers, particularly ones who are Black and Democrats, such as Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the House minority leader from New York, and Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, with posts urging them to continue funding Israel’s military.

ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence-powered chatbot, was used to generate many of the posts. The campaign also created three fake English-language news sites featuring pro-Israel articles.

The Israeli government’s connection to the influence operation, which The New York Times verified with four current and former members of the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and documents about the campaign, has not previously been reported. FakeReporter, an Israeli misinformation watchdog, identified the effort in March. Last week, Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, and OpenAI, which makes ChatGPT, said they had also found and disrupted the operation.

The secretive campaign signals the lengths Israel was willing to go to sway American opinion on the war in Gaza. The United States has long been one of Israel’s staunchest allies, with President Biden recently signing a $15 billion military aid package for the country. But the conflict has been unpopular with many Americans, who have called for Mr. Biden to withdraw support for Israel in the face of mounting civilian deaths in Gaza.

An Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip on Monday. The secretive influence campaign signals the lengths Israel was willing to go to sway American opinion on the war in Gaza. Credit...Ramadan Abed/Reuters

The operation is the first documented case of the Israeli government’s organizing a campaign to influence the U.S. government, social media experts said. While coordinated government-backed campaigns are not uncommon, they are typically difficult to prove. Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and the United States are widely believed to back similar efforts around the world, but often mask their involvement by outsourcing the work to private companies or running them through a third country.

“Israel’s role in this is reckless and probably ineffective,” said Achiya Schatz, the executive director of FakeReporter. That Israel “ran an operation that interferes in U.S. politics is extremely irresponsible.”

Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs denied involvement in the campaign and said it had no connection to Stoic. Stoic didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The campaign didn’t have a widespread impact, Meta and OpenAI said last week. The fake accounts accumulated more than 40,000 followers across X, Facebook and Instagram, FakeReporter found. But many of those followers may have been bots and didn’t generate a large audience, Meta said.

The operation began just weeks into the war in October, according to Israeli officials and the documents on the effort. Dozens of Israeli tech start-ups received emails and WhatsApp messages that month inviting them to join urgent meetings to become “digital soldiers” for Israel during the war, according to messages viewed by The Times. Some of the emails and messages were sent from Israeli government officials, while others came from tech start-ups and incubators.

The first meeting was held in Tel Aviv in mid-October. It appeared to be an informal gathering where Israelis could volunteer their technical skills to help the country’s war effort, three attendees said. Members of several government ministries also took part, they said.

Participants were told that they could be “warriors for Israel” and that “digital campaigns” could be run on behalf of the country, according to recordings of the meetings.

The Ministry of Diaspora Affairs commissioned a campaign aimed at the United States, the Israeli officials said. A budget of about $2 million was set, according to one message viewed by The Times.

Stoic was hired to run the campaign. On its website and on LinkedIn, Stoic says it was founded in 2017 by a team of political and business strategists and calls itself a political marketing and business intelligence firm. Other companies may have been hired to run additional campaigns, one Israeli official said.

Many of the campaign’s fake accounts on X, Instagram and Facebook posed as fictional American students, concerned citizens and local constituents. The accounts shared articles and statistics that backed Israel’s position in the war.

The operation focused on more than a dozen members of Congress, many of whom are Black and Democrats, according to an analysis by FakeReporter. Representative Ritchie Torres, a Democrat from New York who is outspoken about his pro-Israel views, was targeted in addition to Mr. Jeffries and Mr. Warnock.

Some of the fake accounts responded to posts by Mr. Torres on X by commenting on antisemitism on college campuses and in major U.S. cities. In response to a Dec. 8 post on X by Mr. Torres about fire safety, one fake account replied, “Hamas is perpetrating the conflict,” referring to the Islamist militant group. The post included a hashtag that said Jews were being persecuted.

On Facebook, the fake accounts posted on Mr. Jeffries’s public page by asking if he had seen a report about the United Nations’ employing members of Hamas in Gaza.

Mr. Torres, Mr. Jeffries and Mr. Warnock didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The campaign also created three fake news sites with names like Non-Agenda and UnFold Magazine, which stole and rewrote material from outlets including CNN and The Wall Street Journal to promote Israel’s stance during the war, according to FakeReporter’s analysis. Fake accounts on Reddit then linked to the articles on the so-called news sites to help promote them.

The effort was sloppy. Profile pictures used in some accounts sometimes didn’t match the fictional personas they cultivated, and the language used in posts was stilted.

In at least two instances, accounts with profile photos of Black men posted about being a “middle-aged Jewish woman.” On 118 posts in which the fake accounts shared pro-Israel articles, the same sentence appeared: “I gotta reevaluate my opinions due to this new information.”

Last week, Meta and OpenAI published reports attributing the influence campaign to Stoic. Meta said it had removed 510 Facebook accounts, 11 Facebook pages, 32 Instagram accounts and one Facebook group tied to the operation. OpenAI said Stoic had created fictional personas and biographies meant to stand in for real people on social media services used in Israel, Canada and the United States to post anti-Islamic messages. Many of the posts remain on X.

X didn’t respond to a request for comment.

On its LinkedIn page, Stoic has promoted its ability to run campaigns backed by A.I. “As we look ahead, it’s clear that A.I.’s role in political campaigns is set for a transformative leap, reshaping the way campaigns are strategized, executed and evaluated,” it wrote.

By Friday, Stoic had removed those posts from LinkedIn.

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