The Facebook Fight Over Gaza

via AOL
Wither the days of the inherently apolitical, escapist social network.

While Egyptian mediators scramble to broker an end to Israel’s ground campaign in Gaza, both sides’ more vocal advocates continue to wage their own wars using the Internet, recently expanding their informal political campaigns to such popular platforms as Facebook and Twitter.

As of Tuesday afternoon, McClatchy’s D.C. Bureau reported that more than 70,000 Facebook users (and an additional few thousand Twitter subscribers) had “donated” their statuses — the 170-character updates that adorn the top of every user’s profile page — to QassamCount, a third-party application that tracks Hamas missile strikes. Named after the missile model Hamas allegedly prefers, the application updates a donor’s Facebook status whenever Hamas militants attack Israeli targets or kill Israeli civilians.

Pro-Palestinian users, however, soon countered with a status application of their own — “STOP Israel’s War Crimes in Gaza,” which, according to its Facebook page, has drawn more than 74,000 “fans” since its inception earlier this month. In total, AllFacebook, an unofficial blog that shares its subject’s namesake, estimates that group and status subscribers on both sides of the “Facebook Gaza War” would top the one million mark before the week’s end.

To many new media analysts, this sudden increase in Facebook-based social activism has some promise. A slew of recent international events — from the attacks in Mumbai to the war in Gaza — have solidified Facebook and Twitter, among other platforms, as valuable information tools — egalitarian channels through which users may share first-hand accounts and unfiltered information with the masses. And that reach, as Rita King, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, told Time magazine earlier this week, has opened new doors for cross-cultural dialog: “The Internet removes the threat of physical harm and thus offers an unprecedented opportunity for the development of new ideas for conflict mediation,” she told reporters. Continue reading