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Social Media in Warfare: The New Battleground
Posted By Steven Ballew On November 27, 2012 @ 3:30 pm In Featured | Comments Disabled
Twitter, blogs, and YouTube accompanied rockets, bombs, and aircraft as weapons in the conflict between Israel and Hamas that concluded in a ceasefire last week.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had taken to the blogosphere  in order to update the world about the number of rockets that have hit Israel since Hamas started launching them earlier this month . IDF blog posts  such as “How Long Has Hamas Been Shooting Rockets at Israel” aimed to add context to the conflict.
As Israel began responding to Hamas’s aggression with an airstrike campaign, the IDF also deployed social media weapons  to aid its cause. It posted a YouTube video  of a precision air strike that killed Ahmed Al-Jaabari, the leader of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s militia. After the attack, IDF tweeted :
We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) November 14, 2012 
The message was retweeted more than 4,800 times.
The IDF, however, did not monopolize social media throughout the conflict. The al-Qassam Brigades responded  to Israel’s warning by tweeting:
@idfspokesperson  Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves)
— Alqassam Brigades (@AlqassamBrigade) November 14, 2012 
At first glance, it might appear that social media played only a superficial role in the Israel–Hamas conflict. However, in a world where social media represents an increasingly important medium  for keeping people informed about current events, websites such as Twitter and YouTube are valuable tools in trying to shape public opinion.
According to a Pew Research Center study, in 2012, 36 percent of Americans reported seeing news on social networking sites  within a day of being surveyed, compared to 19 percent in 2010. Add in the fact that TV and print news consumption continues to decline, and it isn’t hard to understand why the IDF and Hamas are waging war on this second battleground.
The U.S. should also learn to fight in this new media environment if it is going to combat the homeland security threats it faces. Al-Qaeda has already shown that it can adeptly use social media to frame its cause as right and just. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current head of al-Qaeda, once said  that “we are in a media battle for hearts and minds.”
The ability to use the Internet as a propaganda tool is what made al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki so dangerous. His message inspired Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the underwear bomber) to attempt blowing up a plane  and Major Nidal Malik Hasan to kill U.S. soldiers at Fort Hood.
The growing prominence of social media in informing the public has created a new battleground. Governments that fail to heed to this knowledge do so at their own peril.
Steven Ballew is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm .
Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org
URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2012/11/27/social-media-in-warfare-the-new-battleground/
URLs in this post:
 blogosphere: http://www.idfblog.com/
 earlier this month: http://blog.heritage.org../../../../../2012/11/15/gaza-rocket-terrorism-triggers-israeli-military-response/
 blog posts: http://www.idfblog.com/2012/11/20/how-long-has-hamas-been-shooting-rockets-at-israel/
 social media weapons: http://blog.heritage.org../../../../../2012/11/21/israel-and-hamas-wage-twitter-war/
 video: http://www.youtube.com/verify_age?next_url=/watch%3Fv%3DFhX3NFkMCl4
 tweeted: https://twitter.com/IDFSpokesperson/status/268780918209118208
 responded: https://twitter.com/AlqassamBrigade/status/268791630583193600
 idfspokesperson: https://twitter.com/idfspokesperson
 increasingly important medium: http://www.heritage.org/events/2012/03/wiki-at-war
 reported seeing news on social networking sites: http://www.people-press.org/2012/09/27/in-changing-news-landscape-even-television-is-vulnerable/
 said: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-15133575
 attempt blowing up a plane: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2009/12/re-learning-the-lessons-from-the-thwarted-detroit-airline-bombing
 http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm
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