Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out at Facebook on Tuesday after the social network blocked a “chatbot” from his right-wing Likud party’s account for violating election day rules.
“They took a 100 kg hammer and brought it down on a fly, because it is a Likud fly,” Mr Netanyahu said in a video posted on social media.
“They shut down our means of communication with our voters.”
Israel’s leading YNET news website said the chatbot, a type of automated software that is able to simulate a conversation with a user, had posted results from an election poll on Tuesday while Israelis were out voting, a contravention of election rules.
The problematic posts were apparently taken down and no longer appeared on Netanyahu’s Facebook page.
Mr Netanyahu appeared to play down the violation, saying: “Someone published a small poll on Facebook.’’
Asked about its intervention on Mr Netanyahu’s account, Facebook said in a statement it works with “elections commissions around the world to help protect the integrity of elections.”
“Our policies clearly state developers are required to comply with all applicable laws in the country where their app is available.
“We have restricted this bot for violating local law until the polling stations are closed tonight,” it said.
Mr Netanyahu, who is battling for his political career, has been trying to mobilise his base by warning them of low supporter turnout.
On Tuesday, he urged voters to support him to avert a “disaster”.
His voice hoarse from weeks of campaigning, the veteran leader took to the streets and social media, at one point using a megaphone in Jerusalem’s bus station, to urge voters to extend his unbroken decade in power.
Mr Netanyahu, 69, has cast himself as indispensable and blighted by voter complacency over his tenure – the longest of any Israeli prime minister.
Prime minister from June 1996 until July 1999, he has held the post since March 2009 and is seeking a record fifth term.