Israel election bots “the latest demonstration of how the political game has changed”

By Lucy Ingham

The discovery of Israel election bots designed to give the illusion of support for prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of elections next week is the latest example of how cybersecurity has crossed over into the political realm, according to one cybersecurity expert.

The Israel election bots, which were uncovered by cyber watchdog the Big Bots Project, identified hundreds of fake Twitter accounts responsible for over 130,000 tweets said to be spreading disinformation about Netanyahu’s opponents.

It is, according to Corin Imai, senior security advisor at DomainTools, the latest example of how cybersecurity concerns are posing a threat to democracy.

“This campaign is yet the latest demonstration of how the political game has changed,” she said.

“Cybersecurity is no longer a matter of protecting enterprises’ digital assets and data, but a responsibility towards the preservation of the democratic process.

“The meddling of Russia in the 2016 elections was just the most blatant example of disinformation campaigns aimed at pushing a certain political agenda, and it is not surprising that many more nation states, as well as independent groups, have since followed suit.”

Israel election bots and fake news

The bots, which are spreading fake news in an apparent bid the erode support behind Netanyahu’s opponents, are one of many such attempts to sway public opinion.

In March, for example, researchers found evidence of a coordinated effort by the global far-right to influence opinion on Brexit using Twitter bots.

However, Imai is keen to stress that political interference using bots should always be combatted, regardless of who is behind it.

“Regardless of who is behind this disinformation campaign – being that bots, or real people creating multiple accounts under fake names – and regardless of who commissioned it, any effort to sway the public opinion in a certain direction using fake information needs to be exposed,” she said.

“It is paramount that non-profit watchdogs, governmental bodies, cybersecurity firms and researchers around the world continue to provide their invaluable service to uncover fake news operations.

“Only with a collective effort will we be able to protect people’s right to make informed decisions based on objective facts.”