Slander Bots Boost Netanyahu’s Campaign

Netanyahu campaign boosted by slander bots calling opponent ‘mentally ill’, ‘gay’, ‘rapist’ – report

  ANDREW CHEETHAM8 hours ago

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‘Ahead of parliamentary elections in Israel next week, a watchdog group claims to have exposed a network of fake accounts supporting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and slandering his opponents, including false rape accusations. 

In a campaign already marred by pending corruption and bribery charges, Netanyahu’s Likud party certainly does not need another scandal with eight days left before Israelis head to the polls. Nonetheless, a selectively released report by Noam Rotem and Yuval Adam of social-media watchdog group Big Bots Project claims that a nexus of hundreds of fake accounts has been disseminating messages of support for the ruling party, while maliciously attacking their opponents. While it is difficult to say exactly how many fake accounts were actually involved, the project identified at least 400. 

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The researchers believe that aside from bots, some individuals were hired to run multiple Twitter accounts in order to engage in coordinated social media influence campaigns. While there is no explicit evidence to link either Netanyahu or the party to the coordinated manipulation activity, the malign network has operated with suspicious proximity to Likud’s own election strategies. The fake accounts have been retweeted by Likud campaign officials, and even the prime minister’s son. 

“The network operates through manipulations, slander, lies and spreading rumors,” the report said, according to an advanced copy sent to the New York Times. “On its busiest days, the network sends out thousands of tweets a day.” The tweets, which were all in Hebrew, are said to have received around 2.5 million hits. 

As Netanyahu’s long-held position came under increasing threat from his leading opponent, former military chief of staff Benny Gantz, the bot army began to set its sights on the army general. According to the report, the fake accounts spread a number of sensational rumors about Gantz, including accusations that he is a rapist and a homosexual.’ 

Read more: Netanyahu campaign boosted by slander bots calling opponent ‘mentally ill’, ‘gay’, ‘rapist’ – report

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