Category Archives: Aljerzera

Twitter as Mainstream Media for Israeli/Gaza Conflict?

It was 18 months ago that I first wrote about the extension of real, shooting wars to the social media battleground.  This past week saw a return of cyberspace prominence in the Israeli/Gaza blockade.   The first story that flooded Facebook, YouTube and Twitter was the violence that occurred on the Mavi Marmara.  As this story exploded across the traditional press outlets, videos were available on YouTube showing the actual helicopter boarding of the ship and the attack on the soldiers, which was followed by deadly violence. In this case social media added some perspective to a very volatile issue.

What I found particularly interesting was the coverage of the next ship that attempted to land in the Gaza, the “Rachel Corrie”.  The name of the ship is a reference to an American woman who was killed in Gaza in 2003.   This ship was due to meet up with the Israeli navy early Saturday morning.  I was quite interested in what would happen and tried to get information from traditional media websites throughout the evening in New York.  Much of the information I found was old.  Old in this case means at least 12 hours.   Around midnight NYC time ,  Twitter seemed to become the major news source.  This was fascinating.  Tweets were coming in fast and furious.  This is the first time I experienced the “fog of war” in real time social media.  Reports came in about the ship being boarded, stopped, not stopped, trailed by naval ships, proceeding to Gaza, going to Ashdod, being inspected by International representatives, and so on. Rumors followed Rumors.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the ship had been boarded three hours before the actual event.  This report seemed to be in response to an earlier Tweet that seemed credible.  A credible Tweet as a source?  The Jpost eventually retracted their story, but not before their report was Tweeted 1000’s of time as credible.    The problem is what is a credible Tweet?  Twitter is an environment where anyone can broadcast anything.   The need for instantaneous news on any world event has put news organizations in the position of trying to sift through 1000’s of Tweets to determine what may or may not be happening.  Most Tweets about the Rachel Corrie were re-Tweets of other rumors that were then reinforced by their sheer volume of messaging.  As the trending stats of the Rachel Corrie become higher and higher, it attracted the spammers and the truly crazy people.  Yet through all of this,  I was updating the Twitter role of info on the Rachel Corrie.  The information pipe became even more stuffed with offers for good, services, merchandise and other threads about the ship that described  what was or was not happening.

For the record, the ship was eventually boarded and led to the port of Ashdod where the crew and passengers were deported from Israel and the goods inspected, before shipment to Gaza.  The ruling Hamas Party in Gaza has subsequently refused to accept the aid from the Rachel Corrie becuase it was trucked through Israel. This ship made less worldwide headlines because there was no attack on the naval boarding party and the ship sailed peacefully to an Israeli port.  However, this crisis is far from over as Iran now proposes to use its Navy to escort blockade running ships.

Will we continue to rely on Twitter as the front line of information gathering if this situation escalates even further?  The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) maintains a Twitter account to answer journalists questions and give them real time information on fast moving stories.  During the Rachel Corrie event they responded to a false story in the Jpost as follows:

Twitter is a mix of first hand accounts, rumors, government accounts, and just plain  propaganda.

In the case of the Rachel Corrie what would have happened if Twitter had been flooded with purposeful and coordinated false information?  Suppose Tweets circulated that the Israeli navy blew up the ship?  These false Tweets get re-tweeted thousands of times.  Mainstream media picks up the story and then reports the false reports.  Riots occur, real people get killed; Politicians take public stances that are difficult to back down from.  Fantasy become reality.  By the time the truth is known, it is too late and a real war has begun.   Sound fantastic?   This has happened, almost….

It was October of 1939 when Martians invaded the State of New Jersey.  Panic ensued.  Orson Wells and his epic War of the Worlds was of course just radio fantasy.  We could only imagine what might have happened if he had a Twitter account at the time.

Here is Russian Television’s Report on the Rachel Corrie Ship

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Filed under Aljerzera, facebook, Gaza, IDF, Iran, Israel, mobile, New York, politics, Rachel Corrie, Social Media, social networking, Twitter, You Tube

Israel fights Hamas with Twitter and YouTube

21st century wars are being fought with 21st media. It has been widely reported intwitter_logo the traditional print and broadcast media that Israel is using microbloging on Twitter and longer video releases on YouTube to promote its view of the war against the terror organization of Hamas. This was most probably prompted, in part, by the use of these same mechanisms by Hamas. The Israeli Defense forces have their own YouTube channel for their reports of the war.

This is the second major world event in which Twittered Tweet accounts played an important role in informing, debating, crafting and influencing the mainstream media.  The other one I am referring to is of course the horrific terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.  In that instance, there were real-time first hand accounts of the attacks.

Another less publicized example was the December 21st crash of a Continental airliner in Denver.  One passenger , Mike Scott, gave a real time account of crashing.  Personally, I would have other things to be thinking about at such a time.

youtube_logoIn Gaza, reporting organizations in the U.S. complain about not having access to the war zone, yet citizen reporters and “official” sources are streaming a constant account with mobile devices.

What does lack of access really mean in a Mobile Web 2.0 world? Words, Text, Pictures and Video will flow in real time from anywhere that has mobile or Internet service.

If I were a savvy reporter for CNN, I would monitor these accounts from 100s (if not 1000s) of sources and use them as pieces of a larger jigsaw puzzle. A big plus is that it is a lot safer to watch your laptop screen for the war accounts then don a flak jacket and wander into harms way!  Social Media can provide a view of any event, but it is not the complete story.

There is no substitute for journalistic professionals on the ground, flak jackets and all.

Some examples of the microblogging barrage in the war include:

An official Q&A session from the Israeli consulate in New York.
Their screen name is Israelconsulate.

News Tweets from Al Jazeera via account AJGaza on the Arab point of view

A Twitter count of Qassam rockets fired into Israel via screen name Qassamcount.

And lastly, a Twitter micro-blog with various points of view called Gazafacts

A real-time chart of Twitter posts on Hamas, Israel and Gaza can be seen by clicking here.

hamas rocket fire

One Million Israelis live within range of Hamas Rockets

There are recent accounts of Twitter accounts being disabled as unnamed people or organizations launched denial of service attacks in the Twitter #Gaza channels. So, not only is Twitter a tool for both sides in this war, it is being attacked for being that broadcast mechanism.

I searched several of the social media sites (Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube) for Gaza, Hamas and Israel.  My conclusion is, despite Israel’s launch of an IDF channel on YouTube, the bulk of Web2.0 content is very negative towards  Israel.  Given this reality, it is easy o understand the need Israel has to promote their own view on social media networks.

It is clear that all forms of Web 2.o media will play major roles in future world events.   Managing the social media channels will be as important as managing traditional television and print media in influencing public opinion.   Similar to a Qassam rocket, Web 2.0 provides a mechanism for waging asymmetric warfare.

A real-time search of what’s being said on Twitter about Hamas, Israel and Gaza can be viewed by clicking here

If you don’t like what’s being said, just join in on the conversation.

Note: The author’s Twitter account is njspence

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Filed under Aljerzera, Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Isarel, mobile, Social Media, Twitter, wireless, You Tube