Meta tells ministers they can block calls from hecklers after Knesset speaker demands action

Amir Ohana demands that Meta CEO 'take decisive and swift action' to halt the flood of threatening text messages and calls to Israeli lawmakers on WhatsApp over the war against Hamas; 'Many of the messages contain murder threats, child pornography, violent content and disturbing material'

Meta on Monday informed Israeli ministers and officials that the would now be able to block calls and messages originating from certain numbers after Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana sent a letter to CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg, demanding that he find a solution to the attack on the WhatsApp accounts of elected Israeli public officials.
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In recent weeks, government ministers, Knesset members, senior public service officials and public servants have been flooded with tens of thousands of messages and calls from pro-Palestinian activists.
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הטלפון של מירי רגב
הטלפון של מירי רגב
Threatening messages on Miri Regev's cell phone
"Since the brutal terrorist attack by Hamas on October 7 against the citizens of Israel and the war against the terrorist organization, the WhatsApp accounts of members of the Knesset, including me, and other Israeli officials have been tagged by anti-Israeli activists and organizations on the platform," Ohana wrote to Zuckerberg. "The coordinated attack overwhelms us with thousands of WhatsApp calls and tens of thousands of WhatsApp messages. Most Israelis rely on the application as a primary source of communication for their work and in their daily lives. Beyond the fact that the astronomical numbers interfere and even prevent elected officials and public servants from doing their jobs during wartime, many of the messages that are sent contain murder threats, child pornography, violent content and disturbing material."
Ohana added that "these are violations of the terms of use of WhatsApp, a violation of Israeli law and apparently also violations of the laws of the country from which these attacks are carried out. As a responsible and reputable company providing worldwide service, your cooperation is necessary to ensure a safe environment for all users. Therefore, Meta must take decisive and swift action not only to stop this ongoing attack, but also to eradicate it before it spreads to other countries and becomes an accepted phenomenon."
Among the victims of the disturbing phenomenon are Ministers Miri Regev , Yoav Kish, Yariv Levin, Ofir Akunis, Gila Gamaliel and Shlomo Karhi, as well as Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan. Regev, for example, received messages with explicit threats such as "I will kill you. I'm in your house, say hello soon!", "You'll understand me in hell" and "We'll kill you." President's spokesman Naor Yahya and Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy were also flooded with hateful messages.
The common denominator for all the threatening messages and conversations is that they originate from the international prefix 62+, the country code for Indonesia, even though the content of the messages and threats suggests that they are Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank.
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מארק צוקרברג ואמיר אוחנה
מארק צוקרברג ואמיר אוחנה
Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana and META CEO Mark ZUckerberg
(Photos: Hadar Yoavian, David Ramos / Getty Images)
It also appears that these are not private individuals but a well-organized operation. Gil Messing, chief of staff and head of global corporate communications of the Israeli cyber security giant- Check Point Software Technologies, told Ynet that "several groups of activists distribute phone numbers or accounts in their groups on social networks with the aim of 'bombarding' their owners with a lot of inquiries at the same time. This happens automatically, at the click of a button or several buttons, and that's how you get to a huge amount of calls."
Some of the ministers turned to the National Cyber Directorate and the Shin Bet, trying to understand how to prevent these attacks. There they were advised to change their phone number. Some of the ministers got their phones services, but according to them this only reduced the video calls and did not prevent harassment by text messages.
Ministers say they do not understand how the National Cyber Directorate cannot do anything about the targeted attacks, such as block messages from a certain area code. One senior Israeli official, who says his life has become a "nightmare," said: "Apart from changing the number - we didn't get any solution or answer. This is an organized attack by hostile elements."
Sources familiar with the issue said that complaints were indeed received from several ministers, but the body that should handle this is the Meta company, since it is a bot attack on phones and not a cyberattack.
The National Cyber Organization said this week that "in light of reports that have reached us on the matter, several inquiries have been made to the management of the Meta company in Israel demanding to receive both a specific solution and a general solution to the problem. The issue is now at their doorstep."
Meta has not yet responded.
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