Itamar Ben-Gvir, chairman of Israel’s Otzma Yehudit political party, has reportedly filed a criminal complaint against Facebook, claiming that he has been wiretapped by the Big Tech giant.
The complaint was filed against two executives in the Facebook office in Tel Aviv — CEO Ad Soffer Teeni, and Jordana Cutler, the head of Public Policy. Ben-Gvir’s complaint came after it was reported that, in “a rare move undertaken by Facebook,” the WhatsApp accounts of least 30 people in Israel were blocked, according to the liberal site, Haaretz. One of those affected was Ayala Ben-Gvir, the wife of Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Benzi Gopstein, a “longtime ally” of Ben-Gvir and chairman of the far-right group, Lehava, according to The Jerusalem Post.
As Jewish Press reported, Ben-Gvir called on police to “initiate proceedings against the heads of Facebook in Israel for wiretapping private messages, as part of the publications about the blocking of WhatsApp accounts of about 30 people, including [his] wife, and their permanent suspension from the WhatsApp network.”
WhatsApp, a secure messaging app which offers its users end-to-end encryption, is owned by Facebook.
Ben-Gvir described the alleged wiretapping as a “criminal offense that carries a prison sentence of up to five years.”
“There is no room here to detail the seriousness of the events and the conduct of the overextension that harms the entire fabric of my wife’s life,” Ben-Gvir said, before explaining that his wife “is a teacher,” and that “corresponding with students on WhatsApp is a part of her job.”
In a statement discussing the allegations, Ben-Gvir wrote, “Facebook has crossed all the red lines and there is no doubt that it is time to act against it.”
“Facebook is denying freedom of speech. Intervening in elections in Israel and abroad, but blocking the WhatsApp accounts of about 30 members of Otsma Yehudit, is becoming very serious, as today it proved that Facebook not only harms the freedom of expression, but also allows itself to invade privacy and to enter to privet WhatsApp accounts,” Ben-Gvir added.
The statement concluded by discussing the emotional impact of the alleged removal of his wife’s WhatsApp account.
“I will never forget or forgive on the morning when I found my wife crying, after Facebook deleted her WhatsApp account with the last memories from her sister that have passed away in a young age,” Ben-Gvir wrote. “There is a consensus in the Knesset today that Facebook crosses borders and I will use this consensus to pass legislation against Facebook and limit its activities in Israel.”
Conversely, MK Mossi Raz of Meretz — a left-wing party in Israel — “said in a statement that he believed it was the right decision for Facebook to block people who exist on the far-right of the political spectrum,” according to The Jerusalem Post.
“I hope the justice system will side with Facebook,” he added.