Following outrage over a message on his official Facebook page telling voters “Arabs want to annihilate us all,” Facebook has suspended the chatbot feature of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s page.
According to reports, the message was suspended over its violations of Facebook’s hate speech codes.
The suspension was reportedly put in place for 24 hours, starting at 10:30am local time Thursday.
“After careful review of the Likud campaign’s bot activities, we found a violation of our hate speech policy,” Facebook said in a statement.
The social network added that “should there be any additional violations, we will continue to take appropriate action.”
Reports surfaced on Wednesday that upon accessing Netanyahu’s official page, viewers were being greeted with an automated popup message, generated by a chatbot, with a message to voters imploring them to “make sure” their friends and family vote Likud.
“A secular left-wing weak government that relies on Arabs who want to destroy us all – women, children and men, and will enable a nuclear Iran that will eliminate us,” the message read, saying “we cannot allow this to happen!”
The Facebook message came on the heels of several anti-Arab comments made by Netanyahu and his campaign in an effort to draw right-wing supporters to the polls.
The premiere has repeatedly referred to Palestinians as a “threat” to the right-wing government and the Jewish character of the state, and campaign ads targeting “Anglo” voters.
Critics have accused the premiere of race-baiting ahead of the hotly contested elections, which are set to be held on September 17th.
On Friday, Netanyahu made comments insinuating that his government could launch an offensive on the besieged Gaza Strip “at any moment.”
“An operation in Gaza could happen at any moment, including four days before the elections. The date of the elections does not factor [into a decision to go to war],” the Times of Israel quoted Netanyahu as saying.
According to the latest polls, reported by Haaretz on Friday, the Blue and White party led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid is projected to win 33 seats, compared to Netanyahu’s Likud with with 31 seats. Other polls show Netanyahu with a lead, including one reported in Maariv which gives Likud a considerable advantage over Blue White, 36 seats to 32.