Since the start, Operative Protective Edge captured the media by storm. It permeates the headlines of every major newspaper and of every major news source in the world. It is expected because the Arab-Israeli conflict captivates the world’s interest, specifically when the Palestinian-Arabs get involved. The media continues to distort facts and mislead headlines to imply that Israel acts as the aggressor and that Israel is at fault for the Palestinian-Arab suffering. No better mechanism for acquiring information on the conflict exists than on social media through the use of “trending.”
“Trending” is a mechanism on Facebook and on Twitter which attempts to show its users popular topics discussed throughout social media. Topics can vary from sports, TV shows, politics, and celebrities, and trends catch on the more people post information about it with a hashtag (#). Thus for the past two weeks, Operation Protective Edge has trended on social media, especially after Israel launched a ground operation against the vast tunnel network created by Hamas. As someone who is active on both Facebook and Twitter, I have noticed how dangerous trending has become when discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Mainstream media sources, such as The New York Times and CNN, continue to distort facts and headlines. Despite the flagrant lies, the great percentage of the population relies on these sources, as well as Al Jazeera and the BBC. When so many individuals post biased news sources, then it becomes a “trend” and lies turn to widely acceptable realities for billions of people using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. For example, the following trend was highlighted last Thursday on Facebook:
The trending story came from USA Today claiming Israel hit a U.N. school and killed more than a dozen Palestinian-Arabs. The reports came from the Palestinian Red Crescent, and information did not imply that Israel fired at the school. However, an article published Friday indicates that Hamas misfired a rocket that hit the facility. In the latter article, the United Nations Relief and Workers Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) admitted that Hamas was responsible for the tragic deaths of the Palestinian-Arabs inside. This further displays that before evidence can be verified, the mainstream media continues to distort facts and wrongly blame Israel for killing civilians, something that the Israel Defense Forces have avoided doing since the start of the counteroffensive.
Twitter also acts as a web of disinformation and bigotry when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The following trends existed Friday morning:
Once again, news stories pop up in these trends and direct attention to the stories most distributed throughout Twitter. These articles tend to include CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, and The New York Times, all of which display a strong anti-Israel bias in its reporting.
The dangers of trending remain avoidable, however, if more credible sources are disseminated wisely. By posting a factual-based article that acquires hundreds of shares or as Twitter calls them, “retweets,” the population can access resources that paint an accurate portrait of the facts on the ground between Israel and Hamas. When Al Jazeera published fatality records of Operation Protective Edge, CAMERA took the data and determined that combat-aged males make up the majority of the casualties in the conflict. So I recommend that people start posting credible sources, such as The Times of Israel, CAMERA, The Algemeiner, Tablet Magazine, and ynetnews.com as reliable sources on the conflict. If those articles start trending, then the disinformation will be combated with the truth.
This piece was contributed by Elliott Hamilton.
Elliott Hamilton is a rising senior at Pitzer College in Claremont, California, studying economics and politics. He is a CAMERA Fellow, the Co-President of Claremont Students for Israel, and the Jewish Identity Chairman of AEPi Chi Chi. Elliott Hamilton is a 2014-2015 CAMERA Fellow.