California: Facebook has temporarily suspended a chatbot on the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official page for violating the social media giant’s hate speech policy.
This happened on Thursday, after messages appeared on Netanyahu’s official Facebook page, which is run by the right-wing Likud party, saying “Arabs want to annihilate us all.”
“After careful review of the Likud campaign’s bot activities, we found a violation of our hate speech policy,” a Facebook statement said on Thursday, adding, “We also found that the bot was misusing the platform in the time period allowed to contact people. As a result, we temporarily suspended the bot for 24 hours. Should there be any additional violations, we will continue to take appropriate action.”
A Likud spokeswoman later alleged that the post was a staffer’s mistake, claiming that 69-year-old Netanyahu – who chairs the party – had not seen or authorized the message.
She added that the freeze went into effect on Thursday morning, and would not affect Likud’s online election campaign.
Netanyahu also sought to disassociate himself from the anti-Arab content on Facebook, telling Israeli public radio that he was not responsible for the message.
“It wasn’t me. It was one of the workers at our election headquarters,” he asserted.
“That mistake was fixed quickly. Think logically: Do you think I would really write such a thing? I have friends in Arab countries … What is this nonsense?” the Israeli prime minister added.
Meanwhile, the head of the Arab Joint List coalition in the Israeli parliament, Ayman Odeh, has slammed Netanyahu for the chatbot.
“Netanyahu is a psychopath with no red lines and he wants to see blood,” Odeh wrote in Hebrew on his Twitter page, adding, “This despicable thug will continue to spill our blood as long as he believes it will help him escape prison.”
Odeh further noted that he had reported the automated popup message to Facebook “to stop Netanyahu’s racist and dangerous incitement against the Arab population.”
Arab people living in the occupied territories make up 21 percent of Israel’s population. Political commentators and Netanyahu’s critics have long criticized him for demonizing the community with his political rhetoric.
The development comes as Israeli settlers will head to the ballot box on September 17.
Arabs generally tend to vote for their own parties belonging to the Arab Joint List coalition, or for centrist and left-wing parties.
During legislative elections in 2015, Netanyahu used a similar anti-Arab tone to garner support, claiming in a video that an Israeli right-wing administration was in “danger” and that Arabs were going to polling stations “in droves.”