Israeli Lawmaker Asks Mark Zuckerberg to Testify over Phony Facebook Account that Impersonated Him

The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth wrote: “The State of Israel is waiting for Mr. Facebook.” (Image from Yedioth Ahronoth via Holes in the Net blog)

According to his strict interpretation of Jewish tradition, ultra-Orthodox Member of Knesset Moshe Gafni doesn’t use the mainstream social media. Ironically, he is also chairman of the legislative body’s Science and Technology Committee. Imagine then his surprise when the lawmaker who also heads the United Torah Judaism Party learned he had a Facebook account where he was allegedly responding to posts on his wall.

Infuriated that someone was posting as him, the Israeli lawmaker tried to contact Facebook where he ran into other figurative walls. Exasperated, he’s wielding a tool with which he is familiar: an invitation to testify sent to Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Not exactly an invitation to be his Facebook “friend.”

The Israeli news site Ynet describes Gafni’s saga:

Gafni, who as an ultra-Orthodox Jew, is against using the social network, was concerned about his reputation and tried to have the page removed.

First, he attempted to contact the Facebook management, but to no avail. He turned to the Knesset Guard’s sergeant-at-arms and other officials, who told him they were unable to do anything about it.

Gafni tried to contact the Facebook management yet again, and after failing he consulted professional sources at the Knesset and decided to convene an urgent discussion at the Knesset’s Science and Technology Committee, which he happens to head – both in order to solve his personal problem and in a bid to help other public figures or citizens who may be facing a similar problem.

But Gafni did not settle for a standard guest list, which includes Knesset Guard Sergeant-at-Arms Brigadier-General Yossi Grif, and decided to take it even further: He sent a letter to Zuckerberg himself and asked him to attend the discussion in order to inform Israeli lawmakers on how Facebook deals with such cases and on ways to contact its management.

The Orthodox newspaper Kikar HaShabat writes that the Facebook page of Gafni’s imposter became a “viral hit,” with dozens of “likes” within the first hours that it went up.

His phony Facebook page that was created on April 30 appears to be here, and as of this writing, has garnered more than 300 “likes.”

Other prominent Israeli politicians like Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Knesset opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich (Labor Party) post updates almost daily on Facebook to communicate with the public. That practice elicited criticism from Gafni, who has said some of his colleagues spend too much time on Facebook and not enough time at the Knesset.

Ynet published an excerpt of Gafni’s letter to the 29-year-old Facebook founder:

To the distinguished Mr. Zuckerberg, I have the honor to invite you to the Israeli Knesset to take part in a comprehensive discussion about defending civil rights in the era of the Facebook social network.

Several days ago, I discovered that an impostor had opened a Facebook profile using my name. I reported it, but the profile is still active… I am not just concerned about myself… I’m wondering how an ordinary citizen can protect himself from such mischief, which may harm him and his family… I ask you to come and take part in this serious discussion… I would be happy to see you as our guest of honor at the Knesset.

MK Gafni tells the Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronoth: “The fact that any citizen can open a Facebook page using my name or the name of another Knesset member or public representative is serious, but we will know what to do in order to defend ourselves.”

“I don’t know if Zuckerberg will accept our request to attend the discussion, but we are public representatives cannot ignore the given situation, which can cause a great amount of damage to citizens,” he added.

Yedioth Ahronoth published a photo of Zuckerberg with a caption that in part read “The State of Israel is waiting for Mr. Facebook.”

The Israeli social media blog “Holes in the Net” reports that many Israelis have been victim of phony accounts set up in their name. Others have been hacked.

A recent survey reported that half of all Israelis – four million – have a Facebook account.

The survey by comScore cited on Thursday in Haaretz revealed that Israelis spend more time on Facebook per month than users in any other country.

Elad Brindt Shavit, Facebook account manager for Israel, tells Haaretz that Israelis spend an average of 11 hours per month on the social media site.

Member of Knesset Gafni’s committee has the hearing scheduled for two weeks from now, according to Ynet. Question remains: will Zuckerberg accept the lawmaker’s invitation?