It started with a tweet
Last Wednesday for the first time an armed conflict was started with a tweet, “The IDF has begun a widespread campaign on terror sites & operatives in the #Gaza Strip, chief among them #Hamas & Islamic Jihad targets.”
Rather than opting for the conventional media briefing to a crowded press room, the Israeli Government preferred to mark the start of a fresh war between it and Palestinian forces through Twitter.
It’s certainly not the first time that social media have figured in military conflicts, with both the Arab Spring and the conflict in Afghanistan between the Taliban and NATO forces bring acted out on social media platforms. It is however the first time that a government has placed a social media channel centre stage in its war tools.
Over the last week, Twitter has remained centre stage with several key actors waging a communications war from their account. Chief among them are the Israeli Defence Forces @IDFSpokesperson and the Gaza based terrorists @AlqassamBrigade. A glance over the plethora of tweets since last Wednesday’s attack gives an equally depressing and fascinating picture of the development of the conflict.
All of the key actors are combining their use of Twitter with Facebook and YouTube channels to great effect.
Israel was quick to post up their video of the assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari, the attack which started the conflict.
So far the clip has been viewed almost four and a half million times on YouTube. They have also uploaded a wide number of videos in support of their case, such as this video of rockets being fired from Gaza.
Finally the Israeli Defence Forces are also producing a daily recap of operations .
While not as well organised, the Palestinian side is making use of YouTube.
Facebook is also being made use of and the Israel Under Fire Facebook page has 15,500 likes at the time of writing this blog.
So what explains the elevated importance of the social media channels in this war? The most plausible explanation is that Twitter, YouTube and Facebook allow the protagonists direct access to members of the public. Of course both sides will continue to argue their case on traditional TV and radio channels, with editors and journalists challenging and tweaking their messaging. However, with the huge growth in social media usage, they would be losing an important battle if they did not gear up for a social media campaign too.