The former IDF Chief of Staff challenging Benjamin Netanyahu in next week’s Israeli election has accused the struggling prime minister of waging “a campaign of terror on Israelis’ consciousness” and of creating “a system of fake news”.
Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, who jointly leads the Blue and White Party with Yair Lapid, was responding to a report detailing how senior officials in Netanyahu’s Likud have set up fake Twitter accounts to support Netanyahu’s re-election bid.
Written by Noam Rotem and Yuval Adam, who founded the Big Bots Project, the report says: “On peak days the network writes thousands of posts every day on behalf of Netanyahu and the Likud.”
Rotem and Adam say: “One can clearly see that it was massively ‘operated’ after the election was called, and its activity is irregular relative to control groups with users who were chosen randomly.
“From the moment elections were called up until this report was written, that network posted more than 130,000 tweets. The network is enlisted at peak moments on behalf of Netanyahu.”
Such a network of fake social media accounts, if true, would be illegal under Israeli law. Lapid labelled Netanyahu “chief troll” while Gantz said it was the desperate measure of a desperate man about to be indicted for corruption.
“Netanyahu is going to lose, he is stressed,” said Gantz. “The report reveals that he is leading a campaign of terror on the consciousness of the citizens of Israel.”
Gantz said Netanyahu was involved in leaks of his private conversations. “Anyone who deals in leaks will not hesitate to establish a system of fake news. Only the tip of the iceberg was revealed today. There is an entire system using large sums of money in order to win the election, and that needs to be investigated.”
Lapid said Netanyahu was “trying to steal the election” but Netanyahu described the report as “libel,” saying: “They’re lying brazenly and say that the people who express themselves on the network aren’t real people. In the meantime, all of the examples have turned out to be real, independent people with real opinions.”