Report: Aiming to sow chaos in Israel, fake accounts target Likud activists online

Israeli TV claims Iranian actors created fake accounts to share extremist political content in both pro- and anti-Netanyahu Facebook groups, reached a million people

Illustrative: Likud supporters protest outside the home of Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2021. (Flash90)
Illustrative: Likud supporters protest outside the home of Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2021. (Flash90)

A network of fake accounts across social media platforms has reportedly been targeting prominent activists in opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and other Israelis, sharing extremist political content in an effort to inflame tensions throughout the country.

The Channel 12 report that aired Wednesday claimed a group of Iranian hackers were behind the fake accounts, but did not offer definitive proof tying the bots to Tehran.

The web of fake accounts used Hebrew names and generic photos stolen off the internet.

At least 10 fake profiles on Facebook shared memes and other political content, managing to infiltrate 50 Likud groups, 33 general political groups and nine anti-Netanyahu groups, giving them exposure to over a million Israelis on the social media platform, Channel 12 said.

The accounts also reached out to Likud activists directly. One pro-Netanyahu activist, Orly Lev, told Channel 12 she shared a post from one of the bots calling for a protest against Prime Minister Naftali Bennett minutes after it was sent to her.

She later grew increasingly suspicious of the account when those behind it began offering money to put together the protest.

Another bot on Twitter managed to convince former Likud MK Nissim Vatouri to share his cellphone number publicly by simply tweeting at him that she wanted to send him a message.

“They are not coming to hurt the Likud. They’re coming to destroy Israel,” said Achiya Schatz, CEO of Fake Reporter, which uncovered the network of fake accounts.

Channel 12 said that sources in the defense establishment had been made aware of the network and were probing the matter as well.

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