Tag Archives: Palestinian

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

A Special Thanksgiving Lesson – From Mobile Social Networking

Thanksgiving is a holiday that all Americans, regardless of culture, ethnicity, religion and politics seem to rally behind. I decided to put this notion to a test.

A couple of years ago, I decided to run a small social experiment during the Thanksgiving season. At the time I was CEO of UPOC. I invited members from several diverse groups into a special “What are you thankful for…?” – mobile chat group. The idea was to have everyone give a “shout out” of thanks. The experimental part of this mobile chat group was the source of the member groups that were invited.

These groups included: Christian Fundamentalists, Atheists, Communists, Hassidic Jews, Muslims, Anarchists, Right to Lifers, Republicans, Druids, Democrats, Red Sox Fans, Yankee Fans, Reform Jews, Blacks, Asians, Gays, Lesbians, Hispanics, Satanists, Israeli and Palestinian, Young and Old.

Yes! I even invited Red Sox fans!

I tried to get the most diverse group of individuals I could possibly imagine that had open chat profiles. In the end I invited about 5000 people and got about 500 to join.

In the week leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, I was careful to hide the sources of the groups of the members.

Different Cultures, Religions, Ethnicity, Sexual Preferences, and Sports Affiliations. None of the differences were obvious, just the similarity of giving thanks.

Leading up to the holiday, the expressions of thanks were heart warming. Many gave thanks for Family, Friends and God. Some expressions of thanks were deeply personal including being thankful for a second chance with a loved one, being paroled from jail, having recovered from an illness, having the opportunity to see a loved one for the holiday, etc. The expressions of introspective appreciations knew no boundaries of culture. If you hid the chat handles from the messages you would have had a very difficult time identifying the group that a specific message had originated. It seems that people are really just people.

Everyone has their share of joy and “meshugas”

The second unexpected part of this experiment happened after the long Thanksgiving weekend. The expressions of thankfulness stopped and biases and bigotry emerged.

By the end of the week the word had gotten out to the participants who some of the other members of this group really were. That’s another side of social networking, its tough to keep secrets.

Right and Left Wingers began to spar, Fundamentalists started to try to save the Satanists, Hassidic Jews were condescending of Reform Jews- And the Red Sox and Yankees fans – it was just too ugly to repeat…

Stripped of their diverse background identifiers, people of vastly different cultures have very similar things to be thankful about.

Once the identity veil was lifted I was thankful that everyone in the group was in cyberspace and not really in the same physical room. I removed the group a week after Thanksgiving to avoid potential bloodshed.

Maybe there is something we all can learn from this social experiment in this season of Thanksgiving.

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Isarel, lesbian, mobile, politics, sex, Social Media, social networking, Thanksgiving