Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is up for re-election next week. File Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Facebook on Thursday temporarily suspended the Israeli Likud Party campaign from its Messenger app for violating hate speech policies ahead of national elections next week.
Visitors to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Facebook page recently saw messages warning them of dire consequences if they elect a left-wing government of "Arabs who want to destroy us all -- women, children and men -- and allow a nuclear Iran that will kill us."
Facebook, as part of its user policy, prohibits hate speech, which is defined as a "direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics," including race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
"We also found that the bot was misusing the platform in the time period allowed to contact people," Facebook said in a statement. "As a result, we temporarily suspended the bot for 24 hours. Should there be any additional violations, we will continue to take appropriate action."
Netanyahu said he wasn't responsible for the message, which he said was written by an employee.
"Think logicially, do you think I would write that in order to deny it?" Netanyahu told Kan Reshet Bet Thursday. "I have friends in Arab countries, I have respect for every human, whether is a Muslim or a Christian. Our relationships with the Arab world and my relationship with Arab leaders -- no Israeli leader has ever had such a thing."
The Likud Party said it was a staffer's mistake and confirmed that Netanyahu didn't see the message or authorize it.
The messages were reported to Facebook Wednesday.