In the 21st century, the media has evolved to such a point, that almost everyone on Earth is connected. Within this environment, fighting wars becomes not just something which is done on a physical battlefield, but now, more and more, it is being fought through social media propaganda. Indeed, the current brutal conflict being fought between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza strip is a perfect example of the military use of social media.
Within this conflict, both sides have taken to social media to spread their own message both to their supporters and enemies. While many social networks are used, the one which both sides put the most effort into, is Twitter. Due to its real-time nature the ease of sharing small pieces of information, the site is especially useful for the kind of wartime propaganda utilised by the combatants. Primarily, this propaganda has three purposes, ‘rallying the troops’, frightening the enemy, and garnering international support.
In terms of the rallying home support, Hamas, and other Gaza-based Twitter accounts have been known to inflate the results of their rocket attacks against Israel. This often takes the form of ‘aftermath’ photos which are completely falsified, or simply taken from an earlier conflict. This being said, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are no guardians of truth either, posting information on the number of “terrorists” killed, without any real verification if the people they are killing are indeed terrorists.
Both sides as well attempt to terrorize each other through their tweets. The IDF consistently warns Hamas and other armed groups in the Gaza strip that they will be killed if they continue to resist, often accompanied these threats with pictures of their aircraft bombing targets. In response, Hamas’ Al Qassam brigades have posted images of them kidnapping an Israeli soldier a gunpoint, and threatening the same fate for others who fight against them.
By far the biggest use of the Twitter though, by each side, is to reach out to the international community to attempt to gain support and legitimacy. In order to justify the use of massive force against Hamas, the IDF used a “What would you do?” campaign which asked users in the West what their governments would do if their cities were under sustained rocket attack. This campaign was rapidly reversed by pro-Palestinian groups, asking people what they would do if they were under Israeli attack. In addition to this, the IDF constantly posts sharable infographics which allege that Hamas is using human shields, and conducting military attacks from schools, mosques and hospitals. In response, Hamas and other groups on Twitter, post similar infographics highlighting the number of innocent civilians killed in IDF operations.
Clearly, as social networks become more and more apart of everyday life, they also will become part of waging war. What will be interesting to see is if governments and other groups in future conflicts attempt to conduct yet more advance propaganda operations using the networks.
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