Emotions are running high across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), after Israel attacked a peaceful flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to besieged Gaza – and the Twittersphere is ablaze.
According to Reuters:
The violent end to a Turkish-backed attempt to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip by six ships carrying some 600 people and 10,000 tonnes of supplies raised an outcry across the Middle East and far
And no where is this rage more obvious than on Twitter - where thousands of tweets with the hashtag #flotilla, #Freedomflotilla, #Israel, #Gaza and the Turkish word for Israel #Israil – many of which have now been disabled – mushroomed in a few hours.
Reactions across MENA included sarcasm, anger and shame.
From Dubai, UAE, Mariam writes:
Bahraini Esra'a Al Shafei sarcastically notes:
Rami Boraie, who tweets as Ramsville, follows the same stream of thought, saying:
Nothing will happen because it will be called “self-defense” because water purifiers are just bombs waiting to be made.
Lebanese Jamal Ghosn tweets:
Bahraini Yacoub Slaise adds:
Israelis have never respected borders, they've existed for 60 years on that basis, never expect them to respect intl waters #freedomflotilla
Again from Ramsville:
It's obvious the
flotilla was a peaceful operation. To see israeli soldiers board with machine guns should show the ridiculousness of it all
And there was also action on the ground:
From Egypt, Bothania Kamel reports:
Palfest posts a photograph from the demonstration here:
Ali Dahmash, from Jordan, also tweets:
And here‘s Dahmash's photograph:
Meanwhile, after a few celebratory tweets that #flotilla is becoming a trending topic on Twitter, accusations surfaced that Twitter is ‘censoring’ the entry.
Dowza tries an explanation here:
There isn’t much available as to what happened but it’s not really surprising. Israel showed its distaste for international law once again and attacked an aid vessel outside of their jurisdiction. This was in international waters and the equivalent of piracy. There are reports as to as many as 12-15 people being killed and steadily rising. It’s hard to get any sort of correct number because well… the israeli press is introducing all sorts of unsourced factors. One claims soldiers were attacked with knives. Can we believe this? I’ll elaborate later but for now I am interested in why #flotilla is not trending. Sure it may not be super important but Twitter was used with great success during the Iranian elections for people to speak out. It was even kept up so people could communicate. So obviously it is anti-Iran. But can we establish something else?
As said I’m more interested in why #flotilla is not trending worldwide on Twitter. If you look on trendistic which tracks tweets #flotilla is number 1.
WHY is #flotilla not trending? This is obviously interference on Twitters part. There is no other rational explanation.
It is frightening to think that anyone is purposefully blocking words from being discussed by a greater audience so lets hope this is all some sort of coincidence. Given pro-israeli propaganda that is prevalent in almost every mainstream media outlet it wouldn’t surprise me.
Lets hope it’s an ‘error’.
And as the ‘errors’ continue, Twitter users are becoming more vocal.
SuadAK, from Bahrain, screams:
From Bucharest, Romania, Florin Cosac appeals to Twitter:
On the Guardian's Technology Blog, Charles Arthur attempts another explanation:
But at around 11am, as #flotilla began “trending” – rising to the topmost-used hashtags on the service – it seemed to vanish.
Was this censorship by Twitter? Quite a few asked the question.
Certainly if you went to the standard URL for such a search – http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23flotilla – you briefly got a result saying “Twitter error”.
However if you used the advanced search, you get the results as you'd expect.
What also happened was that people started using a new hashtag: #freedomflotilla. That rapidly trended.
The error in #flotilla search results quickly fixed itself, though. Possibly the rapid rise in the hashtag's visibility tripped an anti-spam filter at Twitter headquarters (where it was 3am in the morning, so we might assume that it's the machines, rather than the people, who are on duty – though then again, knowing the nocturnal habits of programmers, perhaps not).
So: shock as Twitter not being used to censor news. But it does show the enormous sensitivity there now is about Twitter's impartiality that any suggestion that a world event might be pushed out of its “trending topics” (displayed on the right-hand column of every Twitter user's home page) can create such frustration.
It doesn't, of course, help anyone on the convoy that was attacked. But getting information into public hands is a public good. Twitter is coming closer and closer to being viewed as a utility – certainly by those who use it. Perhaps we'd all feel more comfortable if it had a business model that had real, declared profits.
Stay tuned for more reactions as the day progresses.