Twitter has removed a network of more than 40 fake accounts that were used to try and affect political discourse in Israel and increase tensions among right-wing voters ahead of the November 1 elections.

The network was exposed by FakeReporter, an Israeli initiative that aims to identify and expose disinformation and other forms of “malicious activity” online.

The group said the network was operated by foreign entities seeking to intervene in the Israeli elections and increase friction among Israelis.

To that end, the fake accounts focused their activity on far-right politician Itamar Ben Gvir, promoting content in support of him running separately from Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich. The report noted the high level of familiarity with the Israeli political system exhibited by the network through the timing of its operation, ahead of the deadline for submitting party slates on September 15.

“The network focused on MK Itamar Ben Gvir: it commented on his posts, expressed support for him and promoted the idea of him running alone in an attempt to separate him and Smotrich. The profiles promoted content calling on Ben Gvir to run separately ‘at the last minute,’ one day before the deadline for registering slates for the Knesset,” read a report by FakeReporter.

It added that most fake profiles found to be part of the network would post content that included spelling or grammatical mistakes in Hebrew, which further supports the notion that non-Israeli actors were behind it.

הפרופילים הפיקטיביים מתחזים לגברים עם תמונות רקע של אדריכלות ומביעים חיבה עזה לציונות. הבנים עם פנים חובבים בדיחות מהרשת ומשפטי מוטיבציה גנובים של סוכן רימקס מבאר שבע. על אף החיבור המופגן למסורת, החשבונות המזויפים איחלו סוכות שמח בספטמבר ו"משנכנס אדר" בתשרי. pic.twitter.com/07CtlYbM90

— פייק ריפורטר | FakeReporter (@FakeReporter) October 18, 2022

The network created profiles purporting to be Jewish and male, using pictures of actual Israelis on Twitter, FakeReporter said. To maintain the appearance of genuine profiles, they shared hashtags, caricatures, and photos taken from satire accounts on Telegram, as well as motivational quotes from the profile of an Israeli real estate agency called Re/max.

According to FakeReporter, when the accounts were exposed they were likely in an early stage of their planned operation. Some of them had begun liking posts by Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg, the group said.

מרגע סגירת הרשימות לכנסת, הפסיקו הפייקים לתמוך ב@itamarbengvir. כרגע הרשת הטרייה מתמקדת בצבירת טראפיק ואין לדעת מתי תופעל שנית.
הרשתות החברתיות מפוצצות ברשתות פייקים הממתינות ליום הפקודה, בין אם למען קידום פוליטיקאי לבין הפצת הסתה, זריעת כאוס וקידום אינטרסים אחרים. pic.twitter.com/JgVZ609AJ7

— פייק ריפורטר | FakeReporter (@FakeReporter) October 18, 2022

The fake accounts exposed by FakeReporter have all been deleted.

The group has exposed similar attempts to spread misinformation among Israelis in the past. In April, the group said it uncovered a campaign meant to hurt the image of Defense Minister Benny Gantz by excessively promoting content about his hacked cellphone on Telegram. The group determined, at the time, that the operation was led by a group of Iranian hackers who had already attempted to intervene in Israeli discourse on Facebook in the past.

Foreign attempts to intervene in a country’s elections usually originate in Iran, Russia and China, according to a report by the Haaretz daily. Such attempts do not usually try to support a certain candidate, but rather promote divisive issues that further exacerbate existing tensions.

Last month, Facebook said it took down a network of 83 fake accounts operated from China and posing as Americans that spread content on controversial issues like abortion and gun rights in an effort to further divide Americans on such issues.

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Twitter removes fake profiles promoting friction ahead of Israeli election

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20.10.2022

Twitter has removed a network of more than 40 fake accounts that were used to try and affect political discourse in Israel and increase tensions among right-wing voters ahead of the November 1 elections.

The network was exposed by FakeReporter, an Israeli initiative that aims to identify and expose disinformation and other forms of “malicious activity” online.

The group said the network was operated by foreign entities seeking to intervene in the Israeli elections and increase friction among Israelis.

To that end, the fake accounts focused their activity on far-right politician Itamar Ben Gvir, promoting content in support of him running separately from Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich. The report noted the high level of familiarity with the Israeli political system exhibited by the network through the timing of its operation, ahead of the deadline for submitting party slates on September 15.

“The network focused on MK Itamar Ben Gvir: it commented on his posts, expressed support for him and promoted the idea of him running alone in an attempt to separate him and Smotrich. The profiles promoted content calling on Ben Gvir to run separately ‘at the last minute,’ one day before the deadline for registering slates for the Knesset,” read a report by FakeReporter.

It added that most fake profiles found to be part of the network would post content that included spelling or grammatical........

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