Automated Benjamin Netanyahu COVID-19 Facebook message backfires

Occurred: January 2021

An automated message from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu violating the privacy of Facebook users caused a backlash and to the suspension of the politician's account.

Visitors to Netanyahu’s Facebook page who clicked on a link about COVID-19 received an automatic message purporting to come from Netanyahu asking for the name and contact details of people who had not been vaccinated.

'If you know someone who is nervous about getting vaccinated, send me their name and phone number,' Netanyahu said in the video. Maybe they'll get a surprise phone call from me and I'll convince them,' he promised. 

'Under our privacy policy we do not allow content that shares or asks for people's medical information,' said a Facebook spokeswoman told Haaretz. 'We have removed the offending post and temporarily suspended the messenger bot, which shared this content, for breaking these rules.'

Facebook had suspended Netanyahu’s chatbot twice before, once for inciting hatred against Israel's Arab population, the second time for breaking Israeli election law by publishing polls in the 24-hours prior to the election. 

Operator: Likud/Benjamin Netanyahu; Meta/Facebook
Developer: Likud/Benjamin Netanyahu
Country: Israel
Sector: Govt - health
Purpose: Increase vaccination rates
Technology: Chatbot; NLP/text analysis
Issue: Privacy
Transparency: Privacy