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Facebook shuts Netanyahu's chatbot for asking users for medical data

Social media giant Facebook has deleted a post by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and suspended a chatbot linked to his account for violating the company's privacy policy.

Netanyahu had urged his followers to inform him "If you have friends or family members aged 60 or over who have not yet been vaccinated, you can write a response here with their name and phone number, and I may call to convince them!"

Netanyahu also sought the same information through a chatbot operated by his official account.

"Under our privacy policy we do not allow content that shares or asks for people's medical information," said a Facebook spokeswoman.

"We have removed the offending post and temporarily suspended the messenger bot, which shared this content, for breaking these rules."

READ: Israel will be responsible for more Palestinian deaths if it withholds the Covid-19 vaccine

In response, Netanyahu's Likud party claimed that the aim of the post had been simply "to encourage Israelis over the age of 60 to get vaccinated in order to save their lives."

Israel has the world's fastest vaccine distribution rate. With regular imports of Pfizer Inc. vaccines, it has administered at least one dose to more than 25 per cent of its nine million population since19 December, the Health Ministry says. It's inoculation campaign has however come under fire as it excludes Palestinian prisoners and those living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. This is in violation of international law which states that the occupying power must ensure medical supplies to the areas under its control.

This is not the first time Netanyahu has faced suspension from the social media giant over the misuse of its chatbot.

During the 2019 election, Facebook closed Netanyahu's chatbot after it illegally shared polling information, which is banned in Israel during a national ballot.

READ: Israel urged to provide COVID vaccines to Palestinians

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