BY | November 19, 2012

By Shafey Danish (NVONews.Com)

The cyber warfare is taking shape in unlikeliest place. Gaza and Israel are once again locked in a one sided confrontation. The Hamas government of Gaza puts out strong words and fires homemade Qassam rockets, while the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) pounds it with precision guided bombs fired from the ruthless F-16s.

This time though, there is something different. Hamas has been tweeting each of its rocket launches. While the IDF is tweeting back to counter what it calls Hamas propaganda. Welcome to the war in the post social world.

Why are these opponents engaging in a social media wars at all? Probably because they have learnt from the Arab spring that social media could mould opinions more effectively than the old media. They have probably learnt that the Arab world dictators lost their seats because they did not have enough control of the second kind of media. Even though the traditional media remained firmly in their control. In the post Arab Spring world they have moved aggressively to control the web. And where they can’t control – because the web is inherently unruly – they are seeking to influence.

Yet, extensive research has shown that the influence of social media on the Arab Spring was at best overblown, at worst a myth.

“Deen Freelon, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington, assembled a massive database of nearly 6 million tweets on the protests in seven Arab countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen. What he found when he filtered the data by location was that Twitter was overwhelmingly a platform for outsiders to discuss big breaking news, be it Mubarak’s resignation, one of Muammar al-Qaddafi’s insane rants, or the start of a major protests,” writes Blake Hounshell, in an article called “The Revolution Will Be Tweeted” on the Foreign Policy website.

Yes, the web did serve to get the message out for the revolutionaries, but the huge traffic was generated by the western audience which talked itself silly over it. But IDF and Hamas have certainly brought into that myth.

The IDF started the war with a strike on Hamas’ military wing leader Ahmed al Jabari, and it started the flame wars on Twitter by boasting that he had been eliminated. Soon after, the IDF posted a 10 sec video on YouTube which showed a car moving through the streets before bursting into flames after being apparently struck by a missile.

Soon after Hamas responded with its own tweet, from its official Twitter account @AlqassamBrigade “Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves)”.

Of course the situation poses some ethical dilemmas for Twitter, and other websites which have become platforms for propaganda. It is one thing to allow activists to use Facebook and Twitter to get the message out, and quite another to allow (say) Bashar al Assad to get his messages out. Will these sites consent to be the platform for propaganda?

For the moment the answer seems to be yes. The logic which allowed the activists, also allows these state actors the use of the sites.


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