With a general election coming in April, Israeli officials have announced they believe the country is being targeted by foreign players intent on disrupting the process. They are taking action to ensure that online activities will not affect the poll. The country’s internal security agency Shin Bet has said that a specific country is intent on disrupting the poll.
The details of what (and who) is suspected have been redacted. Israel uses paper ballots rather than electronic voting and so the potential to disrupt election day itself is lessened. However the country’s authorities are still concerned about the impact of social media and a large number of apparently fake profiles are under investigation.
The Central Elections Committee has said that it does not believe it currently has the tools needed to deal with an attempt to interfere in the election. However Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he believes the country is well prepared to deal with any such threat.
Electronic interference in an election (whether by a foreign power or someone else) can take a number of forms. At one extreme is a direct attempt to manipulate the results by rigging electronic voting machines or intercepting and changing the electronic results transmissions. That is possible in some countries but much less so in others due to the type of election process.
At the other end of the scale is so-called ‘fake news’. Attempting to police this is extremely difficult. Some things might be demonstrably false but covered by freedom of speech. Other claims might be political conjecture. Israel’s CEC has said that it is for each individual to make up their own mind on such matters and that it will not get involved.
A Parliamentary bill seeking to clamp down on fake news by compelling the authors of any paid political content, including comments, to identify themselves publicly — a move that will apply both to the internet and to more traditional campaign materials, such as posters – has been introduced into the Knesset but with parliament currently in recess until the April elections, it will have to wait until the next national ballot.
There’s a more detailed report here.