Data firm records show spike in English-language online criticism of legal overhaul

Innovesta’s software reveals volume of social media discussion relating to ‘danger to democracy’ in Israel rose by 556% between November and January

Thousands of protesters rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government's planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv on February 4, 2023. (Gili Yaari /Flash90)
Thousands of protesters rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government's planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv on February 4, 2023. (Gili Yaari /Flash90)

Recent months have seen a surge in online discussions in the English-speaking world critical of government plans to enact a radical judicial makeover, according to an Israeli data firm.

Innovesta said Monday that using its proprietary data monitoring and processing software, it had found “evidence of a jump in the global community’s concerns about the Israeli government’s corporate governance.”

The data, collected from social media, “provides evidence of a growth in negative discourse surrounding the judicial reform, and a fear that Israel will not comply with the basic rules of corporate responsibility,” the company added.

The coalition, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been pushing a dramatic overhaul that would increase government control over the judiciary, allow it to override court decisions with the slimmest majority, and give it full power over judicial appointments.

Foreign banks and large corporations, most notably US investment giant JPMorgan Chase & Co., have recently warned that the Israeli government’s plans to overhaul the judicial system may harm international investments in the Jewish state.

Domestically, major high-tech companies have protested the government’s plans and warned that they will scare away foreign investors. Verbit CEO Tom Livne said last week that he would uproot his $2 billion company and cease paying taxes in Israel. He encouraged other CEOs to follow suit.

Critics say that along with other planned legislation, the sweeping reforms will impact Israel’s democratic character by upsetting its system of checks and balances, granting almost complete power to the executive branch, and leaving individual rights unprotected and minorities undefended.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin at a meeting of the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee on January 16, 2023. (Dani Shem-Tov/Knesset)

Innovesta reported that between December 2022 and January 2023, there was a 110 percent increase in posts relating to “democracy in Israel.”

Of the total volume of posts between November 2022 and January 2023, there was an increase of 556% in the number of posts relating to a “danger to democracy” in the country.

The Tel Aviv-based company says its software is able to automatically filter out “background noise” that may skew the monitoring and analysis of online discussions.

Additionally, Innovesta’s software, the company said, can identify posts with higher credibility, such as from recognizable media outlets or reputable accounts.

Innovesta monitors discourse on behalf of large corporations, including some that are traded on NASDAQ, allowing them to gauge public sentiment prior to making large corporate decisions such as mergers or staff cuts.

The company said it was the first time it had used its software — which is generally only the tool of private industry actors — to analyze national issues.

Innovesta, founded in 2016, presented its findings with some reservations, noting that it was aware of efforts to influence the national discourse by using bots and fake accounts, including some that automatically publish and then delete their posts.

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