Commentary

Israel Takes Fight To Social Media

With social media a key new battleground in the fight against violent extremism, Israel’s Foreign Ministry is expanding its capabilities in social media counter-messaging with the launch of a new unit to combat online “incitement” by Palestinian militants.

The Foreign Ministry explained the rationale for the new unit by noting the rise of new forms of communication among young people, including groups primed for radicalization: “This recent wave of Palestinian terrorism has been characterized by attacks committed by young terrorists whose age ranges from 11 to 21. According to figures provided by the defense establishment, these youths were directly influenced by incitement seen on social media.”

The Ministry statement continued: “Incitement on social media is readily available and in most cases there is no oversight when it comes to the content published there.”

The new unit will employ about ten people and fall under the purview of the Foreign Ministry’s public relations division. It will include specialists in Arabic language messaging and social media, some of them drawn from the Israel Defense Force’s signals intelligence and code-breaking units.

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As part of its regular duties, the unit will constantly monitor social media for inflammatory language and content, asking for these videos or content to be removed, identifying individuals posting violent incitement online, and responding with a range of prepared counter-messages.

The Foreign Ministry said it is meeting with foreign companies including Google and YouTube to gain their active cooperation in the effort.

This is just the latest big social media publicity push by the Israeli government as it seeks to track and counter terrorism as well as manage foreign public opinion. Back in 2013 it revealed plans to hire college students to serve as social media foot soldiers with the mission of countering anti-Israel and anti-Semitic messages online. The students use social media to spread pro-Israel messages and combat efforts to organize boycotts against Israel, for which efforts they will be rewarded with full or partial scholarships.

4 comments about "Israel Takes Fight To Social Media ".
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  1. Thom Kennon from Free Radicals, November 30, 2015 at 1:13 p.m.

    Not a little troubling that MediaPost let's a junior editor publish such politically naive analysis of foreign government propaganda and data harvesting initiatives under the heading of 'social media'. I advise readers to do their own research re the background, context and implications of this seemingly innocent rip-and-write of an IDF press release.

  2. Deb Wiseman from Consultant, November 30, 2015 at 2:49 p.m.

    Oh Thom, so you're ok with militants spreading messages to conduct terror....in any part of the world?

    I see this falls under the "it's always wrong when it involves Israel" category.

    Consider yourself actioned on the above!

  3. Robin Caller from LOLA GROVE replied, November 30, 2015 at 5:55 p.m.

    Thom,
    Don't you think social media owners have entirely abdicated their responsibilities relating to the distribution of material inciting young people to bad morality and behaviour? 
    I watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with my little kids, and see lesson after lesson about friendship, support,  goodness.  Then I tune into the Web, and read about bullying, trolls, and the glorification of murder on social media networks.
     Thoughts? 

  4. Thom Kennon from Free Radicals, December 1, 2015 at 10:33 a.m.

    Hi Robin,

    I have 5 kids of my own, eldest 25 & youngest 14. My eldest got his start in social networks on Club Penguin. My youngest, on Google+. I know as a parent as well as a marketer and armchair anthropologist how enriching and enraging - and everything in between - social network experiences can be.

    I teach and practice social marketing and know its powers as a channel of information, community & connection.  I'd argue it isn't the network owners who harbor or encourage malicious behaviors, rather the same type of individual bad actors who behave this way in public, in person, in private, as well as online.  All we can do as parents is reinforce with our kids solid humanist sensibilities for respecting others in whatever type of community we encounter them. We can only shield them so much, and often in spite of our monitoring efforts the youngsters of this early century are maturing faster than their elder syblings, simply due to their earlier exposure to the nasty idiots of this world via social.

    And to Deb, I am guessing you are one of those conservative apologists for selective oppressive regimes.  I can't help change that but I do suspect political causes like yours will end up on the wrong side of history.  My point in my original post was about a marketing trade pub letting a junior editor, searching for a story idea, go mildly rogue posting something under "social" which is clearly nothing more than government propaganda cloaked as press release.

    Thanks for both your notes. "Social" is an amazingly complex new way for us to be in the world together. It's cool to discuss and debate its merits, downsides and potentials.  I look forward to more.

    Thom
    NYC
    @tkennon

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