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Facebook briefly blocks Netanyahu chatbot on election day

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) speaks during an event set to mark the 90th anniversary of a riot which took place in the city in 1929, during his visit to the Ibrahimi Mosque in the West Bank town of Hebron, on 4 September, 2019 [Kobi Gideon/GPO/Handout/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at Facebook on Tuesday after the social network blocked a “chatbot” from his right-wing Likud party’s account for violating election day rules, reports Reuters.

The function, a type of automated software that simulates a conversation with a user, was running again within a few hours.

“They took a 100 kg hammer and brought it down on a fly because it is a Likud fly,” Netanyahu said in a video posted on social media. “They shut down our means of communication with our voters.”

Israel’s Central Elections Committee said the chatbot had been used to publish poll data in contravention of regulations.

READ: Police close voting station in Arab town

Netanyahu appeared to play down the violation, saying: “Someone published a small poll on Facebook.”

The problematic posts were apparently taken down and no longer appeared on his Facebook page.

Netanyahu, who is battling for his political career, has been trying to mobilize his base by warning them of low supporter turnout.

Asked about its intervention on Netanyahu’s account, Facebook said in a statement it works with “elections commissions around the world to help protect the integrity of elections”.

Israel pass Facebook Bill which will authorise deleting content considered incitement - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Israel pass Facebook Bill which will authorise deleting content considered incitement – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

“Our policies clearly state developers are required to comply with all applicable laws in the country where their app is available. We have restricted this bot for violating local law until the polling stations are closed tonight,” it said.

Clearing the way for Facebook to reinstate the chatbot, Judge Hanan Melcer, chairman of the Israeli Central Elections Committee, said he received an assurance from Likud that no further poll data would be published on it.

READ: Israel to close Palestinian territories on election day

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