Israeli-led team of "disinformation experts" exposed by undercover investigative reporters
An Israeli-led team of disinformation experts – dubbed “Team Jorge” – has been exposed by an international group of reporters representing 30 news outlets, including Israel’s Haaretz daily news outlet, Le Monde and The Guardian.
According to the investigative report released last week, Team Jorge allegedly uses a software called AIMS, which controls at least 30,000 advanced computer bots across social media in order to spread propaganda and manipulate online users. The software is also used to hack social media and email accounts and ‘secure’ communication accounts, such as Telegram.
Team Jorge, led by former Israeli Special Forces operative Tal Hanan and his brother, Zohar, has reportedly interfered in some 33 presidential-level elections worldwide since it began its global operations out of the central Israeli city of Modi'in at least seven years ago.
Undercover footage appeared to show Hanan hacking into the Telegram account of a strategist working for Kenya’s then-presidential candidate William Ruto, who went on to win the election. Journalists covering the story were able to make contact with the target of one of the hack operations and confirm Team Jorge’s involvement.
The journalists working on the story were able to make contact with the target of one of the hacks they were shown, and were thus able to confirm Team Jorge’s hacking capabilities.
In addition to meddling in elections, the team was also behind fake campaigns in some 20 countries, including Britain, the United States, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Mexico, Senegal, India and the United Arab Emirates.
Hanan and his “Team Jorge” were exposed by three journalists from news outlets Haaretz, The Marker and Radio France, who posed as consultants for a ‘supposed’ client who wanted to delay an election in a large African nation. During the 6-month undercover operation, a number of video meetings were held with Hanan before the journalists finally met with him in person.
“We are now involved in one election in Africa… We have a team in Greece and a team in [the] Emirates… You follow the leads,” Hanan said during the meeting with the undercover journalists. He also said that he was working on two “major projects” in the U.S., while claiming that his team does not get involved in U.S. politics.
In its report, The Guardian mentioned Team Jorge’s alleged connections to Israel’s Ministry of Defense.
“Hanan appears to have run at least some of his disinformation operations through an Israeli company, Demoman International, which is registered on a website run by the Israeli Ministry of Defense to promote defense exports. The Ministry of Defense did not respond to requests for comment.”
Hanan has refused to comment on the report, only saying that he denies any wrongdoing. His brother, CEO of the group, claims that he has always abided by the law.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.