Netanyahu said to gripe to Zuckerberg that Facebook is undermining his campaign
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Netanyahu said to gripe to Zuckerberg that Facebook is undermining his campaign

PM reportedly asks social media giant’s CEO to ‘ensure the fairness of the election’; company spokesman says it is ‘an open platform for all ideas’

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 11, 2018, about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election and data privacy. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 11, 2018, about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election and data privacy. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly phoned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday to complain that the social media giant was taking action against his supporters in Israel’s recent elections.

Citing sources familiar with the phone call, Haaretz reported that Netanyahu called Zuckerberg to ask that he “ensure the fairness of the election and to act reasonably and fairly.”

The report said Zuckerberg did not directly address Netanyahu’s claims but said the company would be alert to the matter.

“We constantly speak to leaders all around the world and Mark reiterated that we are an open platform for all ideas,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Facebook, the world’s largest social media company with some 2.5 billion monthly active users, also owns the massively popular WhatsApp messaging service and Instagram social media platform.

The company has sparred with Netanyahu in the past.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking on the phone at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, April 28, 2014. (Amos Ben Gershon/GPO)

Days before last September’s elections, Facebook temporarily suspended a chatbot operated by Netanyahu’s official account for saying Arab Israeli lawmakers “want to annihilate us all,” a violation of its hate speech policies.

On election day, Facebook again briefly suspended the chatbot for publishing polling information in violation of Israeli election law.

Facebook in September 2019 also reportedly removed at least 82 accounts suspected as fake that promoted a boycott of the elections among Arab Israelis, seen as an attempt to suppress the Arab vote.

In March 2019, Facebook removed 30 fake profiles based in Israel, most of which belonged to supporters of Netanyahu and his Likud party.

Also in March 2019, Facebook reportedly contacted Likud to demand that Netanyahu’s official Facebook page stop collecting information on users.

The report said the social media giant complained about a data-gathering chatbot that automatically sends messages to users interacting with Netanyahu’s page, in violation of the social media platform’s policies.

Facebook, Google and Twitter have all been emphasizing their efforts to cut down on disinformation on their services, hoping to avoid some of the backlash generated by rampant misinformation on social media during the 2016 US presidential election.

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