Foreign Ministry launches app to stop fake news on social media

The new app will allow people to report fake accounts so that researchers can gather the information necessary to bring about their closure.

January 16, 2019 21:39
1 minute read.
The masked face of international hacker Anonymous

The masked face of international hacker Anonymous. (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)


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The Foreign Ministry and tech company launched a program to share information about social media accounts spreading disinformation, it announced on Wednesday.

The initiative comes after months of efforts by the Foreign Ministry to combat the phenomenon, which spiked since early elections were announced.

Journalists were targeted in five attempts by foreign twitter accounts to spread fake news stories in the Israeli media.

Two of these were first reported in The Jerusalem Post’s ongoing coverage of this issue: A fake site designed to look like it came from a Harvard University research institution, claiming that former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo accused former defense minister Avigdor Liberman of being a Russian spy, and Russian and Arabic websites claiming Israel’s ambassador to Sweden was mediating between the US and the Houthis in Yemen.

In all of the cases, an account that looked like it came from Europe contacted Israeli journalists with the fake story, in an attempt to give it legitimacy. Each account was connected to hundreds of “bots” –twitter accounts run by robots, not by individual people, who made the account contacting the journalists look like a real account by following it and retweeting and liking its tweets.

Cooperation between journalists, researchers and the Foreign Ministry led to 282 fake accounts to be shut down.
Twitter requires three points of evidence for the accounts to be shut down. The account has to have a connection to the fake content, a connection to the bots, and proof of bot activity.

The new app will allow people to report fake accounts so that researchers can gather the information necessary to bring about the accounts’ closure.

Journalists known to the Foreign Ministry are invited to join the app and anonymously share the list of accounts they have blocked on twitter, so the researchers can compare the different lists and see what accounts look suspicious.

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