Facebook says comment shared by Netanyahu as incitement against him is fake

Police launch probe after social media giant removes profile that wrote PM should get ‘bullet to the head’; spokesman for Netanyahu says notion he himself was behind it is ‘stupid’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a televised statement at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on July 27, 2020. (Tal Shahar/Pool/AFP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a televised statement at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on July 27, 2020. (Tal Shahar/Pool/AFP)

Facebook said Thursday that a comment calling for the murder of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which was shared a day earlier by the premier as an example of alleged incitement against him by anti-government protesters, was posted by a fake profile.

The comment by a user called Dana Ron had said the premier should be ousted “only by force… dictators are removed only with a bullet to the head!”

Police launched a probe to find who was behind the fake account.

A spokesperson for Netanyahu denied some suggestions that Netanyahu himself was behind the fake profile, calling such claims “stupid.”

Netanyahu had posted a screenshot of the comment to create an equivalence in a statement condemning suspected right-wing attacks on protesters who demonstrated the previous evening in Tel Aviv against his government.

The statement, which came after the prime minister was panned for his nearly day-long silence following the violence, made a point of mentioning a police officer who was injured in a recent protest as well as the alleged threats against Netanyahu and his family.

“The investigation of the incident in Tel Aviv is underway. I expect the police to get at the truth and bring to justice those responsible. There’s no room for violence for any reason. At the same time, there’s no room for incitement or threats of murder — explicitly or implicitly — against me and members of my family,” he wrote on Facebook, alongside a screenshot of the comment.

However, a series of posts by Twitter user Yossi Dorfman cast doubt over the comment’s authenticity.

The user who posted it, Dana Mor, shared at least seven posts attacking Netanyahu in 10 minutes, around 2 a.m., two hours after the suspected right-wing attack on protesters. Many of the shared posts were old, and one was from September 2019 and related to Knesset elections that were held at the time.

Minutes afterwards, the profile’s bio was updated twice in two minutes. That was an hour after a live video from the protest was uploaded by activist Orly Bar-Lev, under which the offending comment was apparently posted.

Posts from two weeks ago by the profile dealt with a Japanese reality show. Its first activity was in March, when it uploaded a photo that appeared to criticize Netanyahu — but from the right, not the left.

Dorfman concluded that the profile was an “avatar,” a fake profile used for political purposes. He said it didn’t have a profile picture or a public friend list, and that its URL has a different generic name, Dana Levi.

One of the only profiles that had liked Ron’s anti-Netanyahu posts was an equally suspicious account called Lali Mor. That profile is friends with primarily Netanyahu supporters, and has liked the pages of his son Yair, right-wing politician Bezalel Smotrich, and other right-wing pages.

A spokeswoman for Facebook Israel told Hebrew-language media Thursday that “a probe by our global teams around the world has concluded that the said profile is fake, and it was therefore removed immediately from the platform.

“Additionally, the comment itself violates our policy regarding calls for violence and was therefore removed along with the profile through which it was written,” the spokesperson added.

A statement posted by Netanyahu’s Likud party and citing the prime minister’s “associates” said that “if this is an anonymous profile operated by parties calling for the prime minister’s murder, this is no less severe. Police must locate them, bring them to justice and take determined action against the dozens of inciting and threatening posts published daily against the prime minister and his family.”

And Ofer Golan, a spokesperson for Netanyahu’s family, denounced as “stupid” the notion that the premier and his team were behind the fake profile.

“I’ve heard about the stupid idea that the prime minister and his team are behind the fake profile,” Golan tweets.

“I want to clarify that the prime minister expects the police cyber unit to locate the post’s author immediately and bring them to justice. They have all the resources to reach them in a short time.”

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