An investigation conducted by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs (MSA) discovered that at least 21% of posts regarding an International Criminal Courts (ICC) investigation against Israel, and posts related to Israel’s sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, came from fake Twitter accounts. Those fake posts had 180% greater engagement rates than posts from real users.
on Tuesday, Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen’s released its first-ever periodic report on fake social media profiles and networks being deployed against the State of Israel. The study examined 250 suspicious accounts, finding 170, or 70% of them, to be fake profiles trying to stir up anti-Israel sentiments online and manipulate the discourse against Israel.
The study was conducted between June and August when the ICC began deliberating about investigating Israel for alleged war crimes and there were talks of expanding Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.
At the height of their activities surrounding the ICC decision on Israel, over 15,000 tweets were posted under the hashtag “#ICC4Israel”, with just 39 accounts creating at least 21% of the posts and reaching 180 times the engagement rates of normal accounts.
The report also identified two large networks with over 30 users with fictitious profiles, which maintained strikingly similar behavior patterns and consisted of profile pictures of young females, while claiming to be volunteers in one of two Gazan NGOs.
“The findings indicate an organized and coordinated effort to influence public opinion against Israel,” the MSA said in its report. “As part of their campaign, anti-Israel activists are artificially inflating anti-Israel discourse on social media to instill the appearance of widespread popular support for their cause.”
Farkash-Hacohen called on Twitter in a letter to remove the problematic accounts and conduct an in-depth examination of the manipulative use of the platform.
The MSA intends to conduct periodic research on the issue to detect inauthentic activity on other social networks and examine legal steps that may be taken on the matter.
Since taking up her new role a few weeks ago, Farkash-Hacohen identified online incitement against Israel as a major strategic challenge to be dealt with.
“Social media holds a key place in the ‘war of minds’, which recently has become a breeding ground of fake news, misinformation and hate-speech aimed at undermining Israel’s right to exist. Inauthentic accounts are spreading incitement, libels and antisemitism with the express purpose of hurting Israel and its citizens,” she said.
“Delegitimization networks are constantly working behind the scenes with organizations and officials in the international arena to besmirch and isolate Israel. We have now revealed that alongside their efforts to influence the ICC offline, this past summer they identified a special opportunity to provoke anti-Israel discourse online as well,” she added.