The Knesset building.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Central Elections Committee warned reporters and editors on Thursday not to run polls or take election-related content from anonymous sources.
At a briefing held at the Knesset, Central Elections Committee chair Supreme Court Judge Hanan Melcer told a small group of Israeli media that they can play a hand in preventing foreign interference by staying alert to their social and online media channels and removing and/or reporting any anonymous advertisements, content or surveys.
Melcer told editors that the committee is indeed “worried” about foreign interference ahead of the April 9 elections, but that it has already taken several steps to prevent such a disaster.
“We have met with the appropriate bodies, we are meeting with them and we will continue meeting with them,” Melcer said.
Earlier this week, a report by the Herzliya-based International Institute of Counter-Terrorism (ICT) revealed that terrorists are trying to use cyber operations to impact the April 9 elections. The report, which was received exclusively by The Jerusalem Post, detailed a range of current and recent cyberattacks by Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and Iran in terms of their potential impact on Israeli elections going forward.
In early January, the Shin Bet (Israel security agency) likewise revealed that a foreign country is trying to use cyber abilities to interfere in Israel’s upcoming elections.
On Monday, Melcer met with Facebook executives to request that they move up plans to launch tools and restrictions in Israel that could help prevent foreign interference and make political advertisements more transparent.
Facebook had announced that it would implement rules requiring all political ads to be clearly labeled with who paid for them, as well as require that the identity and location of these advertisers be verified. Facebook committed to rolling out such tools in early March and has not yet confirmed whether it will be able to do so sooner.
Ad transparency was first launched by Facebook after it was revealed that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. The tools were utilized in the US during the recent midterm elections and have been activated in four other countries, including the United Kingdom. Israel will be the fifth country to benefit from the social media giant’s protocol.
The Central Elections Committee has been meeting with Facebook since October, even before elections were announced, according to its spokesperson.
Also, at the briefing, the committee announced that it will run a public education campaign focused on fake news.
A spokesperson for the committee confirmed that this campaign will launch sometime toward the end of March and will utilize all available digital and offline media.