Facebook announced on Thursday that it suspended the automatic messaging function on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official Facebook page for 24 hours.
The move comes after chatbot messages were sent from Netanyahu's page stating that "Arabs want to annihilate us all."
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Facebook said it took the action after determining that the content violated its policy on hate speech. It said further violations would be met by additional appropriate action.
The message appeared in an automatic popup to users who accessed Netanyahu’s Facebook page on Wednesday. It urged them to convince undecided voters to cast their ballot for Likud in next week’s election since “We cannot have ... a secular left-wing weak government that relies on Arabs who want to annihilate us all – women, children and men.”
After Haaretz reported on the message, Likud said that it had been the result of a staffer's mistake and that the prime minister had not seen or authorized it. The message was subsequently removed.
In an interview with Kan Reshet Bet public radio on Thursday, Netanyahu disassociated himself from the anti-Arab content on Facebook. "Think rationally. I am a serious person," he told his radio interviewers. "I have friends in Arab countries. What is this nonsense?"
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Although Netanyahu distanced himself from the overtly anti-Arab messaging seen on Facebook, on Thursday he also published an image on his official Instagram page that warned of a Palestinian takeover. The image featured a Palestinian flag projected on one of the skyscrapers that houses Tel Aviv's Azrieli Mall. The image included the caption: "If you don't go out and vote – this is how it will end..." Along with the image, Netanyahu posted a message urging people to vote Likud.