Secretive crackdown on fake profiles shows Israel wide open to election meddling

On eve of local vote, national cyber unit, part of Netanyahu’s office, reveals it has asked Facebook to close thousands of accounts used to spread false info about candidates

29 October 2018

With local elections just a day away and rumors rife that national elections could follow not long after, Israel’s official cyber agency has revealed the beginnings of what could be a major attempt to influence Israeli voters via the kind of underhanded social media tools that marred the US 2016 presidential elections, with experts in the field saying the admission lays bare woeful vulnerabilities in the country’s ability to tackle mass politically motivated cyber hacking.

Acknowledging for the first time that an Israeli government body is working in conjunction with online social media giants in order to prevent active efforts at election interference, the National Cyber Directorate said thousands of fake Facebook profile accounts created to spread false information about Israeli political candidates have been taken offline at the agency’s request.

However, the Directorate, which is run out of the Prime Minister’s Office, is steadfastly refusing to detail the matter any further — raising concerns about its lack of transparency, and also for the potential for political manipulation.