Fake Twitter accounts linked to Israeli disinformation mercenaries attacked the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange company, Binance, while praising Bulgarian cryptobank Nexo, journalists from the international project “Story Killers” found. Nexo has denied using services of this type.
On September 5, 2022, Binance announced that it would now convert some dollar-fixed cryptocurrencies to its own cryptocurrency. This decision is detrimental to the activity of Nexo, which owns a large amount of these cryptocoins. The very next day, fake accounts from the Jorge Team network posted dozens of messages attacking Binance’s decision. In parallel, other avatars are beginning to profusely praise Nexo as a crypto firm of the future whose products are secure. These fake accounts also claim that the investigations against Nexo in the US are a conspiracy of competition.
Fake accounts are managed by the AIMS software. It’s one of the tools of public opinion manipulation for the Jorge Team, Israeli mercenaries for disinformation, hacking and black PR, uncovered by undercover reporters as part of the Story Killers project.
Speaking to reporters, the head of the secret organization, Tan Hannan, said he had secured “33 campaigns at the presidential level” — 27 of them “successful” — as well as many orders from private clients. The Jorge Team’s tactics include hacking, falsifying extortion material, spreading disinformation, deploying false information and deploying targeted social media campaigns.
AIMS is designed to create compelling social media campaign avatars. Avatars or bots use stolen photos of real people, work on any social media platform, and can be linked to functioning Amazon and Bitcoin accounts. They also seem to have a longstanding presence online, including Gmail accounts and banal comments to celebrity videos on YouTube, to give investigators the impression that they are real people.
Tan Hannan demonstrated the work of AIMS to undercover journalists who videotaped it. The on-screen presentation shows some of the fake accounts. Thanks to this, the journalists from the project tracked and established what campaigns they had participated in. Some of Jorge’s bots have joined both the campaign against Binance and the glorification of Nexo.
Other similar campaigns identified by Le Monde are against California Governor Gavin Newsom and his policy against new energy projects in the state, a campaign in favor of Belarusian oligarch Alexander Zingman, a campaign against billionaire Peter Nygard, a campaign against the reputation of the whistleblower of financial machinations Xavier Justeau, etc.
The campaign of AIMS bots in favor of Nexo was not very successful, Le Monde notes, as in the coming months neither Binance gave up its cryptocurrency nor in the US stopped investigations against Nexo.
At the beginning of this year, the company was attacked in Bulgaria by the Prosecutor’s Office. Its owners have been charged with financing terrorism and violating sanctions against Russia. As a BIRD.BG probe found , these accusations are refuted by public information in the sanctioned individuals’ blockchain wallets, which do not find transfers to or from Nexo. However, Nexo had to abandon operations in the United States and pay a multimillion-dollar fine to avoid judicial and administrative action by the US authorities.
Nexo categorically denies that they have resorted to the services of the Jorge Team. “It is impossible to imagine that an enterprise with millions of users, which manages billions of euros of funds and has dozens of licenses from regulators, would resort to such services,” the company said in a statement.
However, the story of bots raises reasonable doubts, as the services of the Jorge Team are very expensive. To use Nexo’s stylistics: it is impossible to imagine how Israeli hackers would engage in such online activity spontaneously and pro bono, because for example they are disappointed with the policy of Binance and vice versa – fascinated by Nexo as the “company of the future”.
In addition, Tan Hannan (presenting himself with the pseudonym “Jorge”) told reporters that the group has a special company for operations in the world of cryptocurrencies – Deep Impact.
Nexo is also doubtful that in the past she has resorted to the methods of black PR. This is stated in a leaked email of the former partner in the company Georgi Shulev. The allegations are that Nexo is behind Zeus Capital’s website, which years ago published a denigrating analysis about the Chainlink project. According to Shulev, his partners Kosta, Antoni and Kalin have thus carried out market manipulation and misuse of client assets.
Nexo are particularly sensitive to negative coverage. Two years ago, they threatened a prosecutorial investigation into the author of this article over a Facebook post that tracked their relationship with Help Karma and Credissimo. Despite the threats, the publication was not removed and legal action never followed.
The Story Killers investigation is coordinated by Forbidden Stories and involves more than 100 journalists from 30 media organizations. Forbidden Stories is an international consortium of investigative journalists who continue the work of colleagues who have been killed or are working under threat. BIRD.BG is the Bulgarian partner in the project.
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This post is also available in: Български (Bulgarian)