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November 17, 2012

Israel, Gaza and Social Media: Where the Line Gets Drawn

A decades-long violent conflict between Israel and Palestine does not seem to be a likely platform for a social media exchange on Twitter and elsewhere, but the past twenty-four hours has challenged that. Yesterday marked the beginning of an Israeli offensive in Gaza, with the intention of killing Hamas leader Ahmed Said Kalil al-Jabari which proved successful.

Before YouTube took the video down, people were able to view a video shot by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) that documented a straight-forward assault on the Gaza Strip leading to the death of al-Jabari. The IDF was also taking to Twitter to offer both updates to followers, as well as warnings to Hamas about more to come. Hamas also took to Twitter to offer their own side of the war with @AlqassamBrigade – the military cohort of Hamas. 

Both sides were shooting off Tweets to each other in a weird version of cyber warfare that I couldn't help but feel was a type of cyber-gladitator fight. All Tweets were written in English, signifying that the messages were just as much for the rest of the Western world to see as the opposing sides. The IDF went under the identity of IDFSpokesperson and called for others to spread their own message with the hashtag “#PillarofDefense”.

I do not wish to dive into the complicated politics of the Israel/Palestine conflict, as this is not the place to conduct such a discussion. However, the conflict – and the means in which they have taken to social media – is another discussion worth uncovering.

This type of exchange on social media has never quite been seen before. When it comes to social networks, we tend to place the intention of using them as either a branding opportunity, or simply a means of staying in touch. That is how they started out at least. But the Middle Eastern conflict has a revealed a new side to social networks, and no one is quite sure how to take it.

It could be said that one's political agenda, whether it be Israel or anyone else, has the ability to be promulgated through social media like no other medium. During the dragged out Obama and Romney campaign, Americans saw how connected social media can make us, but the polarization was hard to ignore as well. This new campaign by the conflict is of a whole new sort, and when Tweets are created in positive response to people getting killed, there must be a line that we all must see.

War is a sensitive subject to touch, and bringing social media doesn't make it any easier. Is war, especially two representatives of the sides involved, an event where social media should act as a hub? Does this go too far? The debate could go on and on with agreers and dissidents probably listing both valid explanation for their perspective.

 There is an unsettling feeling about seeing live “death” Tweets and YouTube videos showing up on my screen – I do know that much.

Author Bio – Josephine Girard is a frequent contributor to DX3 – a technology blog that looks into related developments in technology and the effects that they have on society.

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Comments

I like that both sides are on social media, that way I can follow in real time. That said...they s/h to post warning signs on pictures that are graphic. I opened one today from the brigade of 2 boys that were on atable...horrible and it had no warning. I'll never get that out of my head.

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