Social media used as reporting tool and weapon in Gaza war

The Huffington Post | Tablet | Haaretz | Forbes

Unlike four years ago, the Israeli military isn't keeping journalists out of Gaza during this conflict, and social media is bringing their stories home more quickly, Michael Calderone writes. A Monday strike on a media center was tweeted by a journalist inside, quickly followed up by two pieces of reporting from other journalists on Twitter, confirmed by the Israeli Defense Forces on Twitter, then buttressed with video from the Associated Press and CNN.

A single strike four years ago would not have received nearly as much immediate media coverage, with foreign journalists -- likely watching smoke billow from their hilltop positions near the Israel border -- forced to start working Gaza sources in order to learn what may have transpired.

Belgian immigrant Sacha Dratwa has turned IDF's social media shop "into the most globally visible arm of the Israeli military," Allison Hoffman writes. Hoffman wonders how much the IDF's updates are affecting public opinion, but Aliza Landes, who founded the social media initiative, tells her, “It’s important to be in the conversation," even when that conversation is critical of your actions. "If you just say, ‘I’m going to cut this [criticism] out entirely,’ you’re not doing yourself any favors, and in fact you’re doing yourself a disservice.”

Haaretz writer Anshel Pfeffer is skeptical about the value of that service: "there’s no way to transform a bombed-out house with its residents still inside and dead babies being dug out of the rubble into a PR coup," Pfeffer writes.

A quick Google search reveals the unwelcome news that in fact, Israel is not winning on Facebook or Twitter. The supporters of the Palestinians are fighting back, there are many of them and we are not convincing them.

Alex Kantrowitz writes about the idea of a military front opening up on a microblogging service: "The all-out battle on social media has bewildered many following the confrontation online," he writes.

When a military at war asks its Twitter followers to “Please Retweet,” or check out its Tumblr, or posts an image of a rocket hooking a Prime Minister’s undergarments, it is hard not to sense a disconnect between that messaging and the bombing taking place in real life.

Related: Anderson Cooper fights back on Twitter

Previously: Journalists face conflict when covering Israel-Gaza attacks | What happens when the military becomes its own media?

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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