Israeli-sponsored App Tries to Manipulate Google in Fight Against BDS

Act.il advocacy app wants BDS undermines peace, BDS promotes hate and BDS lies as top three suggestions on websites autocomplete search feature

A promotion for the Act.il app, on the 4il website.
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A pro-Israel social media advocacy app that partners with the Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry is asking activists to influence Googles search results for the term BDS.

The apps stated goal is for BDS Google searches to receive pro-Israel messages as the top three suggestions on the platforms autocomplete feature: BDS undermines peace; BDS promotes hate; and BDS lies. BDS stands for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

Depending on your location and browser history, currently when you type BDS into Google, the first autocomplete suggestions are BDS boycott list, BDS wiki, BDS anti-Semitic and BDS boycott supporters.

The effort to game Google searches is a mission on the Act.il app, a tool launched last June to help implement a Strategic Affairs Ministry campaign to defend Israel online," dubbed "4il."

The app enlists volunteer activists for missions across a range of social media platforms, in which they earn points, badges and prizes. The missions include sharing and retweeting positive news about Israel, reporting and complaining about designated YouTube and Facebook posts and videos to the platforms companies, and signing online petitions.

The State of Israel is under an assault of lies whose purpose is to delegitimize it as the nation-state of the Jewish people, the apps campaign says, inviting Israels supporters to download the Act.il app and Come and influence the online debate.

The Google search mission on the app explains that Google autocomplete uses an algorithm to automatically generate search predictions based on the number of people that have searched for a word or phrase, and declares a goal of changing the current automatic completion for the term BDS.

It then instructs users to click a button to go to Google and search for these sentences as many times as you can to affect the Google autocomplete.

The Act.il website offering details about the pro-Israel app
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The Act.il app is backed by a trio of organizations in the United States and Israel: the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, and the Israeli-American Council and Maccabee Task Force – both heavily funded by billionaire and political megadonor Sheldon Adelson. Its declared intention is crowdsourcing pro-Israeli activists worldwide and leveraging the power of communities to support Israels image and fight against the demonization of the State of Israel.

Last November, the Forward reported that the projects founder and CEO, former intelligence officer Yarden Ben Yosef, told them that both Israels military and the Shin Bet security service were making specific requests from Act.il for its help in getting violent anti-Israel videos removed from Facebook and other platforms.

Subsequently, the report noted, Ben Yosef walked back that statement, saying that the Shin Bet and the army dont request help on specific videos but are in regular informal contact with Act.il, and that Act.il is staffed largely by former Israeli intelligence officers and that they know each other and work together.

Ben Yosef also told the U.S. Jewish publication that Israeli government officials view his Act.il app as more effective than official government requests in getting videos removed from such platforms.

In response, a Google spokesman told Haaretz that predicted searches are produced automatically based on a number of factors, including the popularity of search terms. We periodically update our systems to improve Search, and our users search activity varies, so the terms that appear in Autocomplete may change over time.