Covid: Facebook suspends Israel PM Netanyahu's chatbot

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Image source, Benjamin Netanyahu
Image caption,
The post was removed from the prime minister's Hebrew account

Facebook has deleted a post and suspended a chatbot on the page of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's account for violating its policy, it says.

The account had asked followers to provide details of friends or relatives aged 60 or over who have not yet received the coronavirus vaccination.

It said Mr Netanyahu might call them to convince them.

Facebook Israel said the request had breached its policy regarding private medical data.

"In accordance with our privacy policy, we don't allow content that shares or asks for people's medical information," it said.

Local media said the chatbot - a live messaging tool where answers are handled by a computer rather than a human - would be suspended for a week.

It had sent out the request to followers, and the appeal had also appeared in a post on the page.

It is not the first time Mr Netanyahu's Facebook account has been in trouble for breaching rules.

Media caption,
Covid-19: Vaccine divides in the Middle East

In the run-up to and during elections in September 2019, the chatbot was suspended twice - first for what the social media giant called hate speech when the tool warned of "Arabs who want to destroy us all", then for "violating local [election] law" for publicising polls after voting was under way.

At the time, Mr Netanyahu's Likud party said the prime minister had nothing to do with the posts.

The latest controversy comes as Israel forges ahead with its vaccination programme - the fastest in the world - extending it to 16-to-18-year-olds.

More than a quarter of its population of nine million have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine since 19 December, its health ministry says.