JERUSALEM: Twitter said on Tuesday it has “taken action” after an Israeli watchdog exposed an alleged bot network spreading propaganda in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and smearing his opponents.
Noam Rotem, one of the researchers behind the report, said Tuesday he has seen Twitter shut down 258 of the over 400 automated and fake accounts his team identified.
Twitter did not comment on the number of accounts removed, but said that the platform prohibits fabricated accounts and “has taken action where violations are identified” to ensure healthy dialogue online during election cycles.
With just a week until the national vote, the pro-Netanyahu bot network discovery jolted Israel’s already turbulent campaign season.
Netanyahu lambasted the report as “libel,” and his challenger Benny Gantz accused him of “trying to steal the election.”
Netanyahu’s Likud party had denied using fake accounts.
In a video clip dismissing the report’s findings, Likud said 985,408 Israelis had voted for Netanyahu in the previous election in 2015.
Separately, the premier’s office said that Netanyahu will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday, just five days ahead of an April 9 Israeli election.
Netanyahu has held a series of meetings with foreign leaders in the runup to the vote, helping him further his argument that he is Israel’s irreplaceable statesman. His office did not provide further details in its brief statement on the meeting.
Israel and Russia coordinate their military activity in Syria to avoid accidental clashes.