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Team Jorge

Team Jorge
“Team Jorge” is a covert team of primarily Israeli contractors, connected through underground channels, who have manipulated over thirty national-level elections across the globe through hacking and widespread misinformation campaigns on social media.

Led by Tal Hanan (“Jorge”), the group provides services to private actors, not state clients, and its existence is not publicly identifiable. The existence of Team Jorge was uncovered in 2023 after an investigative project from over eighty journalists across thirty outlets around the world. It is unknown how long Team Jorge has been in operation, though its earliest known activities date back to 2012.

Journalists were able to uncover Team Jorge’s true identity due to its past collaboration with Cambridge Analytica, the British company which infamously used the personal data of nearly 87 million Facebook users to influence voters through misinformation on social media. Known for having manipulated the 2016 US Presidential election for Donald Trump’s victory and steering voters in favor of a Brexit vote in the UK, Cambridge Analytica also sold its services to clients in approximately sixty other countries. Team Jorge provided “opposition research” to Cambridge Analytica, hacking private emails and phones of politicians to offer personal data for Cambridge Analytica’s campaigns — including hacking the cellphones of opposition leaders in the 2015 Nigerian election, in which Cambridge Analytica played a massive role. Team Jorge also marketed an early version of a mass messaging software to Cambridge Analytica in 2017, helping them to create avatars on social media to parrot political messaging on a large scale. Leaked emails from the Cambridge Analytica scandal provided clues that led investigators to documents confirming Team Jorge’s work. 

Similar to industry peers like NSO Group and Rayzone, Team Jorge utilizes incredible surveillance technology. It targets the phones of important government leaders and harvests sensitive data, often even controlling phones remotely to send messages on behalf of the target. But Team Jorge also wields social media to steer public opinion in favor of its clients. The group developed a stunning database of fake social media profiles to spread misinformation online, skewing public opinion and obscuring the corruption of politicians. Its software Advanced Impact Media Solutions (A.I.M.S.) was groundbreaking in its field, hosting over 30,000 online avatars with convincing social media presence, many of which held accounts tied across multiple platforms. In the experience of undercover journalists reporting through Forbidden Stories:

"Using keywords, [A.I.M.S.] can create posts, articles, comments or tweets in any language with a 'positive,' 'negative,' or 'neutral' tone. After entering the words 'Chad,' 'president,' 'brother,' and 'Déby,' for instance, Jorge commanded the tool to produce 10 negative tweets about the Chadian government. Twelve seconds later, they appeared. 'Enough is enough, we need to put an end to incompetence and nepotism of president of Chad brother Déby,' one read. 'The Chad people have suffered enough under the rule of President Brother Déby,' read another. 'One operator can hold 300 profiles, so in two hours, all the country will speak the messages or the narrative [we] want,' one of Jorge’s associates said."

In 2022, Hanan claimed that Team Jorge was responsible for influencing “33 presidential campaigns” across the globe, “27 of which were successful”. While the majority of Team Jorge’s operations remain opaque, investigations indicate that Team Jorge utilized its hacking and disinformation services to hack the phones of senior members of President Ruto’s campaign in Kenya in 2022; disable the phones of All Progressives Congress party (APC) leaders in the 2015 Nigerian elections, to aid the presidential bid of Good Luck Jonathan; create a campaign of support for the embezzling Isaias brothers of Ecuador; slander Gavin Newsom during his gubernatorial campaign in California; place false media stories in France about the harms of sanctions on Russia; disrupt the 2014 referendum on Catalan Independence; and disseminate false information to journalists about former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in 2012, among other efforts.

Team Jorge’s greatest strength is the depth of its global networks. Hanan has listed Roger Noriega, deputy Secretary of State under George W. Bush, as an associate, as well as Martin Rodil, a former IMF official and advisor to the US government on Venezuelan politics, among countless others.