Numerous Israeli journalists recently received direct messages on their Twitter accounts linking to a sensational news story. The sender, using the Jewish-sounding name “Bina Melamed,” directed them to a fake story falsely alleging former Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman was a Russian spy. Four Israeli journalists — hoodwinked by the article appearing on a rogue but convincing duplicate of Harvard University’s website — spread the story, before it was exposed. Bina Melamed, which turned out to be a fake account operating from Turkey, has become a cause celebre of attempts to propagate fake news in Israel through bots. And cases of cyber sabotage are rising, ahead of April elections.
So a coalition of Israeli diplomats, programmers and hackers have joined forces to stave off threats — including from hostile states — by identifying networks on social media and getting them removed.
In some cases, like Bina Melamed, disinformation makes its way from social to professional media.
“We blocked that within 24 hours by contacting them (the account holder) directly,” said Elad Ratson, a Foreign Ministry diplomat who spearheads Israel’s efforts against fake news bots.