Netanyahu Calls Zuckerberg to Criticize Facebook Treatment of Likud

The prime minister's Facebook bot was suspended twice during September's election for violations, and other rightists have also accused Facebook of cracking down on their accounts in recent months

Netanyahu at his office in Tel Aviv, October 9, 2017
Moshe Milner / GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday to complain that the social media platform has worked against his Likud party in the recent elections.

About a week before September’s election, Facebook slapped a 24-hour suspension on a bot that Netanyahu was using to send automatic messages to Likud activists. The suspension was sparked by a message from Netanyahu’s account that said “The Arabs want to destroy us all – women, children and men.”

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On Election Day itself, Facebook again suspended Netanyahu’s bot after he twice used it to publish polls, since Israeli law bars publishing polls on Election Day. Two hours later, Central Elections Committee Chairman Hanan Melcer ordered Facebook to let the bot resume operation.

Other rightists have also accused Facebook of cracking down on their accounts in recent months, charging that it suspends right-wing accounts far more often than it suspends left-wing ones.

Sources briefed on the conversation, which was initiated by Netanyahu, said the prime minister asked Zuckerberg to ensure that the company would treat all parties equally prior to March’s election. They said Zuckerberg didn’t comment on the specific claims Netanyahu raised, but did promise to be alert to the issue.

“We are constantly talking with leaders worldwide,” a company spokesperson said. “Mark stressed in this conversation that Facebook is a platform open to all ideas.”

Netanyahu and Zuckerberg also discussed technology issues, the sources said, with Zuckerberg telling the prime minister he plans to invest more in the development office that Facebook opened in Tel Aviv in 2014.