Suspended Journalist at France's Leading TV News Channel Ran Reports Planted by an Israel-based "News for Hire" Outfit, Leading to the Discovery of a Growing World of Fake News Business.
A senior journalist at France's leading TV news channel, BFM, was suspended from his job, leading to an investigation that uncovered an allegedly well-organised system of corruption and influence buying in the international media.
The journalist, Rachid M'Barki, had run reports on various subjects, including luxury yachts in Monaco, a Sudanese opposition leader, and allegations of corruption in Qatar, that were all planted by an Israel-based outfit specialising in "news for hire".
The investigators found evidence that the origin of the stories lay with Team Jorge, an operation based in Tel Aviv and run by a former Israeli special forces officer.
Team Jorge is part of a growing world of disinformation mercenaries who use the internet to damage an enemy's reputation or influence an election.
Central to the Team Jorge offer was a platform called Advanced Impact Media Solutions (AIMS), which generates tens of thousands of fake identities with accounts on Facebook
The investigators identified around 20 different international campaigns that they believe Team Jorge had organised, some commissioned by governments, but most probably ordered by private interests.
The discovery of corruption and influence peddling in the media is alarming, as it reveals a growing trend of the fake news industry becoming increasingly similar to Uber. This problem is not limited to social media and alternative news websites, but has spread to mainstream and even state media, making it a pervasive threat to the integrity of journalism, democracy and social stability.
Very few dishonest journalists with established reputations have been bought with money to produce fake news. This damages the credibility of the majority of honest journalists who do not accept bribes to manipulate their reporting and provide an important service to society.