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Israel, again, makes war social

This tweet, by the @IDFspokesman, received about 200 retweets within a minute and a half.

A screenshot of a tweet posted by the @IDFspokesperson on July 16, 2014.
A screenshot of a tweet posted by the @IDFspokesperson on July 16, 2014.
  • War has always been about utilizing the newest toy against your enemy. Enter: Twitter.

In the current 10-day (as of this writing) scuffle between Israel and Hamas, the Israel Defense Forces, one of the world’s most technologically advanced armies, not only targeted suspected fighters and fended off bombs with its Iron Dome; it bombarded its Twitter followers with a barrage of updates, infographics and pictures of destruction from the front.

The IDF has reinforced a social media strategy it heavily used in its fall 2012 Operation “Pillar of Defense,” a skirmish predominantly done through air strikes that left about 150 Palestinians dead. (About 100 of those were civilians, according to reports.)

That strategy was called Social War. And it worked: The IDF, which at times taunted Hamas via viral tweets, gained about 140,000 Twitter followers during that conflict, more than tripling its pre-“war” number.

The result of this Social War is that the @IDFspokesperson has become the IDF’s own de-facto news agency as the army, sending upwards of 20 or 30 tweets per day, live-tweets its own attacks and the destruction caused by Hamas’ rockets.

Here is an example of an IDF tweet:

The Israeli Prime Minister’s official account, @IsraeliPM, also seemed to be paying Twitter to promote pro-Israel tweets, Newsweek reported.

Of course, governments attempting to bring a war into the public conscious through various media is nothing new, but the fervor Israel has brought to the game in fall 2012 was noted for being “brilliant in its way” by media critic Jon Mitchell in a November 2012 post on ReadWrite.

“By controlling the messaging so tightly, the IDF ensures that the media coverage of the operation is framed the way Israel wants it,” Mitchell said.

Social War, which has been attributed as beginning on November 13, 2012, when the @IDFspokesman declared war on Hamas via Twitter before announcing it at a press conference, seems to be heading in the same direction as its ubiquitous counterparts Twitter, smartphones and social media. That is to say, as new and social media becomes more infused with modern life, it may find more uses within war. … Well, allegedly, in the CIA’s case.

By Tim Worden.

Published July 17, 2014, at 3:45 p.m.

Updated July 21, 2014, at 2:30 p.m.

For more context, read my analysis of Twitter’s use in the 2012 conflict, written for my college magazine writing class.

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