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Hundreds of fake Twitter accounts boost Netanyahu

Updated April 02, 2019

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Network includes a number of real people, along with hundreds of Twitter accounts that appeared to be fake or duplicate.
Network includes a number of real people, along with hundreds of Twitter accounts that appeared to be fake or duplicate.

JERUSALEM: An Israeli watchdog group said on Monday that it found a network of social media bots disseminating messages in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of next week’s elections.

Noam Rotem and Yuval Adam, two researchers operating the Big Bots Project, said in a report that they uncovered hundreds of fake accounts spreading messages in support of Netanyahu’s Likud party and smearing his opponents. Likud denied the allegations.

Adam said his project discovered a network that included a number of real people, along with hundreds of Twitter accounts that appeared to be fake or duplicate.

“One person might be operating tens or hundreds of accounts at the same time,” he said. “All these accounts are pushing their political agenda, not only that but also inciting hate speech, attacking very specific people who are opposed to their political agenda.” He said this appeared to be a violation of Twitter’s terms of use. He said the findings had been forwarded to Twitter in hopes of deactivating the fake accounts. Twitter declined comment.

Adam said the Big Bots Project was financed through a crowdfunding programme. The project also includes researchers from Ben Gurion University’s Cyber Research Center and Tel Aviv University.

Israelis head to the polls in eight days in a close race between Netanyahu and his main rival, former army chief of staff Benny Gantz. Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term in office under the shadow of corruption charges.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2019