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Palestine: Social Media in Conflict, Four Years On

Back in 2008, during Israel's attack on Gaza that left more than 1,400 (more than 700 of whom were civilians) dead, individuals the world over took to social media to comment on the attacks and the politics behind them.  Twitter, still a young platform at the time, served as the locus for debate, while other platforms including YouTube were used by state and non-state actors alike.  Even the Israeli Consulate of New York managed to get in on the action, hosting a press conference on Twitter.  All of this occurred amidst an Israeli media blackout on Gaza.

Four years later, the world — and the Internet — has changed.  The events of 2011 that took place in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, and elsewhere have demonstrated the extent to which governments can control the Internet, as well as the challenges posed by relying on citizen reporting.  Now, as Israel once again unleashes a barrage of air strikes against Gaza's population, social media has become a secondary battlefield.

One point of discussion has been the relationship between state actors and social media platforms.  As Global Voices’ co-founder Rebecca MacKinnon has written, privately-owned platforms control much of our online speech, making decisions as to what is or is not appropriate based on their own proprietary guidelines.  This week, that subject is being discussed in relation to content posted by the Israeli Defence Forces, both on Twitter and YouTube.  @Mike_Orcutt tweets the following article from Wired:

A Youtube employee tells @dangerroom why the IDF's kill video hasn't been taken down http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/11/israeli-kill-vid/

The issue has arisen on Twitter as well; as the @IDFSpokesperson tweeted what, by all accounts, appears to be a threat, some have asked whether that violates the microblogging platform's terms of service. Nigâr Hacızade tweets:

war by social media is only possible if the platforms over which it's waged give their consent http://bit.ly/THxYlQ  

 

While Israel clearly has the military upper hand, many see them as losing online.  A game, released by the Israeli Defence Forces on its blog, “gamifies” killing, causing widespread disgust amongst activists and journalists alike; as Jon Mitchell of ReadWriteWeb told Time:

“Innocent people are dying on all sides, and the IDF wants to reward people for tweeting about it … It makes me sick.”

Richard Taylor comments:

Wonder how the IDF will gamify this… RT@farshidk: BBC journalist’s 11-mth-old son killed in Gaza strikes by Israel 

Another concern is that of Gaza's telecommunications infrastructure, which is inextricably linked to Israel's and is therefore vulnerable.  As Nadim Kobeissi tweeted:

An Internet shutdown in a Gaza under siege means stripping war victims from a global voice. Read @evacide‘s article:https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/11/social-media-internet-access-are-latest-weapons-israeli-palestinian-conflict

Anonymous has also gotten into the game, tweeting frequent updates:

Current Internet, telecommunication and death toll situation/status in #Gaza |#OpIsrael #Gaza |http://tmblr.co/ZNMTdvXOLg0b

 

At the time of publication, their website marked Gaza's telecom status thus:

Broadband: Limited, Intermittent
PBX Lines: DOWN
Mobile: UP
Ham Radio: DOWN
Satellite: Unkown
Electricity: DOWN, Current electricity by Generators

 

This time around, Reddit is also playing an important role in conflict.  At a time when finding reliable information from the ground is complicated, Al Jazeera correspondent Nadim Baba has taken to the platform for an “AMA” or “Ask Me Anything,” during which the subject is publicly questioned by Reddit users and can answer as they like. Baba has been asked—and has answered—dozens of questions about the ongoing attacks.

12 comments

  • Matthew Tait

    I always wondered where the non-Zionist citizenry of Israel are on the web.
    Are they allowed access to the internet?

  • Where is the UN peace keeping force and why is hamas able to declare a wish to wipe Israel of the map with impunity. Seems so many jump in and yet no peace force to intereact between the two. Twitter is a communications system for the voice but the real voices of war are discrete in their clever way. Clever but can see through the agenda.

    • emwatcher

      You’re right, Anne. Hamas’s tanks and warships are a constant threat to Israel. Now that Hamas has advanced fighter/bombers, Israel is clearly about to lose its grip on the map. What can we do against Hamas’s overwhelming superiority that threatens Israel from all sides?

      • Guest

        er um and israels nuclear weapons…..not to mention the supposed 10 billion in military aid a year from good ol US of A

  • […] Palestine: Social Media in Conflict, Four Years On · Global Voices From globalvoicesonline.org (via @LadyDragon13) – Today, 6:00 PM Back in 2008, during Israel's attack on Gaza that left more than 1,400 (more than 700 of whom were civilians) dead, individuals the world over took to social media to comment on the attacks and the politics behind them. […]

  • […] Voices’ Jillian C. York provides a historical overview of the role of social media in the conflict over Gaza since 2008, as well as Israel’s efforts to […]

  • Mutzka

    I’d like to understand why my fellow liberals insist on accepting the propaganda from a fascist, misogynist, fundamentalist religious terrorist group (the Hamas) as the Truth. Actually -take it from someone who lives in Ashkelon and is an eye witness- Israel was under non-stop rocket attack by the Hamas for a full week before it “attacked” Gaza. The assassination of the Hamas terrorist didn’t come as a retaliation for the shelling, however. It came in retaliation of 3 separate attacks made on Israeli border patrols on Israeli soil.

  • […] Voices’ Jillian C. York provides a historical overview of the role of social media in the conflict over Gaza since 2008, as well as Israel’s efforts to […]

  • […] Voices’ Jillian C. York provides a historical overview of the role of social media in the conflict over Gaza since 2008, as well as Israel’s efforts to […]

  • […] showed Israelis protesting the military operation against Gaza and the changing dynamics of social media warfare: Innocent people are dying on all sides, and the IDF wants to reward people for tweeting about it […]

  • […] to the country and its blogosphere (the “blogoma”), and began branching out, covering Palestine, or Egypt, or Syria at times when my colleagues were unable to, or connecting issues from the […]

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