best tracker Loblaws ‘boycott’ snowballs as ‘fake accounts target retailer & trick the public’ – expert warning to avoid being fooled – Techss

Loblaws ‘boycott’ snowballs as ‘fake accounts target retailer & trick the public’ – expert warning to avoid being fooled

FAKE social media accounts amplified calls to boycott a supermarket chain and such activity will only get worse with the rise of AI, cyber experts have warned.

Malicious actors – possibly from Russia, North Korea or China – have manipulated public opinion to damage Loblaws, the cyber experts’ study found.

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Cyabra discovered that malicious actors used fake accounts to boost a protest against Loblaws and encourage people to participate in a boycott against the chain in Canada[/caption]

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Shady social media attacks have been launched against Loblaws for ‘nefarious purposes’ according to the experts, who researched the boycott campaign[/caption]

Cyber-sleuthing firm Cyabra is led by former information warfare and cyber security experts.

It offers an AI-driven open-source intelligence platform that detects phony accounts spreading disinformation.

Cyabra probed the proportion of X, formerly Twitter, discussions advocating for this month’s boycott of Loblaws.

It found that nearly 20% of tweets pushing for the chain’s snubbing were generated by fake accounts.

“When you are seeing a fake account, you have to treat them as nefarious attempts (by malicious actors),” said Rafi Mendelsohn, VP of Cyabra.

“Observing their behavior is what our platform does.

“We look at how they are trying to manipulate public opinion, and how they are trying to impact public opinion and the wider conversation.”

Cyabra

Rafi Mendelsohn, VP of Cyabra, which has been providing intelligence to governments across the world for the past seven years[/caption]

The firm has been working for the past seven years with governments and organizations worldwide to analyze billions of online conversations in real-time, uncovering dangerous, anti-democratic online trolls and bot campaigns.

But its attention turned to the unusually sudden and massive campaign driving shoppers to shun Loblaws.

Tens of thousands of customers were urged to boycott the supermarket chain in Canada this month over the spiraling cost of food.

SNOWBALLED

The campaign quickly gathered pace, with scores of posts shared across social media.

Cyabra’s investigation disturbingly found that fake profiles were calling to extend the protest against the brand – with a potential reach of 72,000.

Mendelsohn said the anti-Loblaws push hit the firm’s radar because the boycott calls seemed to “snowball.”

“When analyzing the effectiveness of the campaign, our analysts saw that the content, the posts being posted by the fake accounts had the potential to reach 72,000 real accounts on social media, just based on a couple of fake accounts,” he added.

The firm was not engaged by the chain to investigate the campaign.

But Cyabra’s experts were intrigued by the unusual spiraling of trolling against the firm.

CHAOS

They also wanted to establish whether fake accounts were attempting to manipulate discussions surrounding the brand, which has more than 2,400 stores.

“We found fake accounts set up to amplify genuine accounts,” Mendelsohn said.

“It might be they are trying to impact the stock price, or impact the business, or trying to cause chaos.

“It could be for criminal activity, or to create chaos; if you are a state actor then being able to amplify conversations is very advantageous.

“Their motivation is money, power, and influence,” he added.

What Cyabra does

The firm provides expertise in identifying disinformation and fake news.

Cyabra is led by former information warfare and cyber security experts.

The firm has been operating for seven years, with employees based in Tel Aviv, New York, and Spain.

Its platform was built to provide intelligence to officials in governments and democracies around the world.

It identifies disinformation bot networks and reputation attacks across social media platforms.

Cyabra also proactively disrupts online threats, responds quickly, and mitigates against fake campaigns.

Its name is a mash-up of cyber security and abracadabra.

Cyabra’s system analyzed the hashtags #boycottloblaws and #cancelloblaws to map the spread of disinformation.

It uncovered a total of 791 profiles that actively shared 1,003 posts, and comments containing these hashtags between April 23 and 30.

“For this investigation, our objective was to determine the proportion of Twitter discussions advocating for a boycott of Loblaws as well as the involvement of fake accounts attempting to manipulate the discourse surrounding the brand.

“Cyabra’s advanced AI algorithm scanned Twitter hashtags such as #boycottLoblaws, calling for a boycott of the brand, to assess the impact of fake accounts involved in the conversation and determine if they are part of a coordinated campaign.

“Cyabra’s system discovered that one of the objectives of the fake account was to extend the protest against Loblaws and encourage people to participate in protests starting May 1st,” the firm said.

FOREIGN INTERFERENCE

And there are fears this type of campaign could escalate and affect other businesses in America and Canada.

“Whereas in the past we’ve looked at information associated with elections, we are seeing more examples of malicious actors using fake accounts against businesses,” said Mendelsohn, who is based in Tel Aviv, Israel.

“The technology we built… the platform was built for intelligence units at governments and democracies around the world, so we have (for example) worked with the State Department to track foreign interference.

“What is interesting about the Loblaws campaign is that people are unhappy about pricing, and this is what it seems to have grown out of.

“We found fake accounts set up to amplify genuine accounts.

We can be manipulated about elections, and every part of life until we don’t know that we are being manipulated about everything.”


Rafi Mendelsohn VP of Cyabra

“We were seeing a lot of malicious actors jumping on conversations that are happening.

“There is usually a high proportion that is driven by fake accounts – about 4-6% of day-to-day conversations are fake (on X).

“But when we started to uncover more than this, this sets off alarm bells – that the conversation is being manipulated.

“Loblaws are probably not aware how many are fake accounts,” he said.

“Lots of companies are trying to deal with this type of scenario.


“This is definitely not a one-off. It is important that (people) are able to establish what is real and what is fake – and that people aren’t being manipulated,” said Mendelsohn.

“This isn’t Cyabra saying that brands don’t do anything wrong.

“But we need to know whether there are real people involved.

“People can be negative on social media.

AI ACCOUNTS

“But… (there is the risk) we can be manipulated about elections, and every part of life until we don’t know that we are being manipulated about everything.

“AI is being used to create more believable accounts.

“If you are a state actor, then being able to amplify conversations is very advantageous.

“If someone (for example) takes a position on the Loblaws share price, if someone wants to have an impact, this could have a (negative effect),” he added.

He advised people using social media to be more wary of sharing posts and to double-check the source.

“Spend a bit more time to look at whether it is a fake account,” he added.

The U.S. Sun has previously shared stories about the likes of North Korea having state-sponsored cryptocurrency hackers ramp up their activities against the States.

And in March we had an article on spooks battling hackers from China and Russia around the clock, according to a spy chief.

DISGRUNTLED

Complaints about the supermarket chain appeared to kick off when a customer posted a Reddit thread outlining their problems, asking “Loblaws is out of control but why is everyone still shopping at Loblaws?”

As more and more disgruntled customers left comments, people soon began calling for a total boycott of Loblaws for the month of May.

Protestors urged the store to lower food prices by an average of 15% and get rid of members-only pricing.

The U.S. Sun has contacted Loblaws and X for comment.

CYABRA VIA Rana Somekhian Public Relations Specialist

Cyabra shared its stats on the fake campaign targeting Loblaws[/caption]

CYABRA VIA Rana Somekhian Public Relations Specialist

It found numerous phoney X accounts set up to amplify the protest against the huge supermarket chain[/caption]

Rana Somekhian Public Relations Specialist

It also shared that between April 23 and 30, 2024, a total of 791 profiles actively shared 1,003 posts and comments with certain hashtags aimed at damaging the brand[/caption]

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