Facebook has suspended a chatbot used by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which asked unvaccinated seniors to give it their phone number for a potential ‘surprise’ call from the PM.
In a video posted to Twitter last week, Netanyahu encouraged Israeli seniors to get vaccinated, and told his followers: “If you know someone who is nervous about getting vaccinated, send me their name and phone number, maybe they’ll get a surprise phone call from me and I’ll convince them.”
אני רוצה לעודד את בני ה-60 ומעלה ללכת ולהתחסן >> pic.twitter.com/UyvfQqXLSa
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) January 21, 2021
He posted the same message to his Facebook page, along with a Messenger bot asking for phone numbers from his followers.
Facebook suspended the bot on Monday, stating that asking unvaccinated people to identify themselves broke the platform’s rules on sharing medical information.
Netanyahu’s Likud party responded that the prime minister was simply determined to raise awareness and ensure that Israel’s seniors protect themselves. More than a quarter of Israel’s nine million residents have already been vaccinated, putting the Jewish state far ahead of any other country in the race to immunity.
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Netanyahu may have been barred from gathering medical information from his citizens, but in doing so he was simply muscling in on Facebook’s own game. The social media giant has run into controversy before for hoarding its users’ medical information, with a 2016 lawsuit revealing that the company collected data on one user’s participation in cancer support groups outside of Facebook. Two years later, CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted to the US Congress that his company collects medical data from users, with that collection continuing even after they log off.
Facebook even reportedly sent a doctor to multiple US hospitals to convince them to share private patient data, including illness and prescription information, according to a 2018 report that the firm later acknowledged.
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