As the fighting in Gaza continues today, with both sides continuing to trade blow, Israel has shown a new side to how it conducts its fight with Hamas as it turns to social media to offer a level of apparent transparency that has not been seen before in the conflict in the Middle East.
We have already seen how important it is to use social media to get your message out in Syria. There both President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the Free Syrian Army have turned to social media.
The Israeli Defense Force is both liveblogging its operations in Gaza and is very active on Twitter through its @idfspokesperson account, which have been tweeting news, images and videos of missiles being fired into Israel.
Gigaom notes that the IDF blog looks “very much like the New York Times live-blog The Lede, except that it was being published by a military force: the front of the website even looks like a traditional news blog or breaking news site, complete with the usual social-media buttons for sharing content on Twitter, Facebook and other networks”.
That clearly shows how organisations and brands are beginning to imitate and bypass the media to create their own content channels — their own distinct voices and outlets. It is a case of “shock and awe and social media”.
The IDF is not the only one actively exploiting social channels. Hamas is also using social media and the two sides have exchanged bitter words on the platform.
The Verge reports that in addition to updates on the IDF blog, aerial photography and YouTube videos (via the IDF YouTube channel), the IDF is letting the world know directly whenever it manages to take out a substantial target, via Twitter pic. It has echoes of the US’s Most Wanted pack of playing cards used when it went into Iraq back in 2003.
Ahmed Jabari: Eliminated. twitter.com/IDFSpokesperso…
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) November 14, 2012
Many of these updates from the IDF are picking up a lot of retweets showing the appetite among social media users, including many journalists, to monitor what the IDF, and Hamas, are saying directly.
What the IDF is doing mirrors the activity of many others be it presidents or industry moguls like Rupert Murdoch who have made social media a platform to bypass the press. This was something that David Carr noted recently in the New York Times when he took a look at Murdoch’s use of Twitter.
This can be a very successful tactic and one that can be very disruptive to the traditional media landscape. What it is clearly not is journalism (its public relations), but then increasingly so much out there isn’t journalism — although it looks very much like it. That has to be a concern.
Another media writer Brian Stelter said recently, at a conference on social media at Columbia University, that sources going direct is one of most disruptive changes to hit journalism in the digital age. He said it was the thing that “keeps me up at night”.