Gantz is target of most fake news for 8th week running — report

One false item claims Gantz phone hack was ordered by a senior official in the Blue and White party and carried out by an Israeli company, Vocativ media company says

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Head of the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz, speaks during a campaign event in Haifa, on March 17, 2019. (Flash90)
Head of the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz, speaks during a campaign event in Haifa, on March 17, 2019. (Flash90)

Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief rival for the premiership, Benny Gantz, has been the top target of fake news this past week, retaining the title for the eighth week running, according to a media company report published Thursday.

Up to 1.3 million internet surfers — a third more than last week — were exposed to false posts about the former army chief of staff and head of the Blue and White party during the week to March 19, said Vocativ, owned by Israeli tech investor Motti Kochavi, which is currently issuing weekly reports on fake news.

Among political targets of fake news following Gantz, in descending order, were Netanyahu, Kulanu party head Moshe Kahlon, Yair Lapid of Blue and White, the New Right’s Ayelet Shaked and Blue and White’s Gabi Ashkenazi.

A week ago, Channel 12 news opened its main broadcast with the report that Iran had hacked Gantz’s phone.

Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party has tried to use the hack, which Gantz was informed about last year by Israeli security officials, to show Gantz is unfit to lead the country. Gantz has charged that the leak of the breach to the media was politically motivated.

One item of fake news against him this week claimed that the hack had actually been ordered by a senior official of the Blue and White party and was carried out by an Israeli company.

Another stated falsely that the phone contained information showing that Gantz had betrayed his “three women” (he has just one wife, Revital), become estranged from his eldest daughter and grandchild, and committed a string of financial crimes.

Fake news from the past week claiming that a left-wing journalist had admitted the charges to be brought against the prime minister (subject to a hearing) are ‘one big bluff.’ (Vocativ screenshot)

A fake news item in Netanyahu’s favor asserted: “Left-wing journalist admits: The investigations of Prime Minister Netanyahu are one big bluff.”

Last month, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced that Netanyahu would be charged with criminal wrongdoing in three separate cases against him, including bribery in the far-reaching Bezeq corruption probe, pending a hearing.

The week saw various attacks on the High Court of Justice, including images depicting the word “Bagatz” (High Court) with a knife and the underline “A knife in the heart of the nation.”

An online post saying “Bagatz (High Court); A knife in the heart of the nation.” (Vocativ screenshot)

On Sunday, the New Right party, led by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, launched a new campaign ahead of the election, vowing to defeat both the Hamas terror group and the High Court. The two are intent on reducing the court’s influence, which they see as excessive.

Transportation minister Israel Katz received compliments on his work from bots and trolls, following a report earlier this month in which the state comptroller lambasted him for the dire state of the country’s transport infrastructure.

Although Yosef Shapira conceded that important projects had been initiated over the past 10 years, many faults in public transportation “have not been addressed by the ministry and by Israel Katz,” who has been in the job for ten years, he said.

Israel Katz attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on February 17, 2019. (Sebastian Scheiner/Pool/AFP)

One of the most popular fake posts, liked by 1,600 people, purported to be from the prime minister’s son, Yair, and addressed to “all the leftists who curse me every day” to say that he had a full matriculation certificate and university degree, unlike Yair Lapid of the Blue and White party.

Lapid indeed failed to earn a matriculation certificate due to learning disabilities, and went into journalism straight after his compulsory army service rather than going to university.

In all, while Netanyahu was mentioned mainly in a positive light in more than 38,000 posts by bots and trolls, Gantz was mentioned mainly negatively, in just under 20,000 posts.

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