UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

UKLFI asks Facebook to investigate bot attack on Billie Eilish

The singer Billie Eilish was recently attacked on her Instagram account by a suspected network of anti-Israel bots.  After Eilish said “Hi Israel” in a promotional video for her new album, her social media accounts were flooded with thousands of bot-generated anti-Israel comments or symbols.

UKLFI has written to Facebook, the owner of Instagram, drawing its attention to this abuse of its platform.

Caroline Turner, director of UKLFI commented: “We expect Facebook to find that this is an abuse of the Instagram service and to take the appropriate action to protect its users and prevent deceptive manipulation of public opinion.”

A report by “Creative Community for Peace” has analysed the engagement on 6 of Eilish’s posts on Instagram made between 31 July and 5 August 2021, following the release of the “Hi Israel” clip.

This attack on Billie Eilish is another example of a growing online manipulation campaign by anti-Israel activists, trying to distort and influence public opinion against Israel via inauthentic means.

The report states: “After Eilish’s clip was released, users noticed repeated pro-Palestinian comments on her social media that received high numbers of likes. This unusual engagement warranted further examination, as there was suspicion of a coordinated attack of bots or fake accounts. Our research focused on Instagram and checked the most liked comments on each of the 6 posts Eilish made between 31 July and 5 August 2021, following the release of the “Hi Israel” clip.

  • Out of the 468 top comments on the 6 posts between July 31 and August 5, 123 were made by accounts with 0 posts on their personal profiles and were anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian (26%). These 123 bot comments received a total of 217,269 likes. Out of the 123 comments, 43 received more than 1,000 likes each, and 18 garnered over 5,000 likes each. The top bot comment received 13,317 likes.

  • When “suspected bots” (commenters with only 1-2 posts on their personal profiles) are included, the numbers are even more staggering: Out of the 468 top comments on Eilish’s 6 Telegram posts in the period examined, 170 were made by accounts with 0-2 posts on their own personal profiles and were anti-Israel/proPalestinian (36%). The 170 comments by the bots and suspected bots received a total of 291,995 likes.

  • 272 of the 468 comments (58%) were emoji-only comments.

  • The 174 top comments on Eilish’s 3 posts published on July 29-30, prior to the “Hi Israel” video, received no anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian posts. E. Some of the bots and suspected bots that received high numbers of likes did include human operators who responded to replies to their comments.