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Tuesday, February 7th, 2023

Facebook suspends Netanyahu campaign bot for hate speech

The comment comes amid a bitter and divisive election campaign in which Netanyahu has targeted Arab parties and citizens. He pushed, unsuccessfully, to allow party representatives to film inside polling stations, ostensibly to prevent voter fraud.

A Facebook logo.Credit:AP

Analysts said that the effort was more likely intended to intimidate Arab voters. They compared it to a tactic used to rally Netanyahu’s supporters on Election Day in 2015 when he asserted that Arab voters were converging on polling stations in droves.

Facebook’s suspension — a 24-year hour that began at 10.30am local time Thursday — targeted only the bot. Netanyahu’s Facebook page was not affected.

In a statement, Facebook said “a careful review” had “found a violation of our hate speech policy.

“Should there be any additional violations,” Facebook said, “we will continue to take appropriate action.”


Netanyahu blamed a campaign staffer for the phrasing, saying he had not seen the message before it went out and had immediately ordered it removed.

“This mistake was immediately fixed — I didn’t write it,” Netanyahu said in a radio interview Thursday.

“Do you think I really would write such a thing and then deny it? I’m a serious person. Not everything on my campaign page is edited by me.”

Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties, said his team had alerted Facebook to the comment Wednesday and demanded it take action against what he called “Netanyahu’s racist and dangerous incitement against the Arab public.”

In a Twitter post, Odeh described Netanyahu as “a psychopath who has no red lines and wants to see blood.”

Last year, Facebook suspended the account of the prime minister’s older son, Yair Netanyahu, for 24 hours because of anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian posts that it said included hate speech. The social network removed the posts, which had generated a flood of complaints, then suspended the younger Netanyahu’s account after he reposted a screenshot of one of the offending posts online.

The New York Times