Social media has become a fixation for those dying the slow lonely life in suburbia to residents of frenetic inner metropolises. It galvanises political movements and enables groups to challenge mummified structures of power. But what is often forgotten is that it can just as well be used by those in power against those out of it.
Nothing has illustrated this better than the Israeli use of social media even as the IDF pummels positions on the Gaza Strip in Operation Pillar of Defence. Peter Kafka of All Things Digital sums up the effect of this strategy. “The idea is familiar to anyone who had a message to push in 2012: Instead of relying on middlemen like the press to convey your story, you can go over their heads, and right to your target audience.”
Soon after the assassination of Hamas’ top military commander in Gaza, Ahmed a-Jabari, the IDF’s media arm announced a “widespread campaign on terror sites & operatives in the (hash) Gaza Strip” on its twitter account. A black-and-white video was posted on its official YouTube page showing the fatal airstrike, prompting Google to remove the video for violating YouTube’s Terms of Service. (Google being the owner of YouTube.) YouTube offers a tip on the subject of community guidelines: “Don’t post videos showing bad stuff like animal abuse, drug abuse, under-age drinking and smoking, or bomb making. Graphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed.”