January 19, 2019

Combating Anti-Israel Digital Propaganda

“This is an age of propaganda. Throughout the world, states, groups and individuals are utilizing and manipulating digital platforms to spread false information, sway public opinion and undermine social cohesion. While the methods of propaganda have changed in the digital age, substituting the radio with Facebook, its objectives have remained remarkably similar. First, digital propaganda is used to erode social cohesion. By focusing on various contentious issues, states and groups use social media sites to target disenfranchised minorities, amplify divisive social issues and drive social frustration. This form of propaganda was extensively used during the 2016 US presidential elections when Russian Facebook ads targeting African Americans focused on police brutality and the death of young African Americans at the hands of white police officers.

Digital propaganda is also used to spread false information, thereby shaping people’s understanding of current events. The Crimean crisis of 2014 illustrated this aptly, as fictitious news sites argued that Ukrainian nationalists had created concentration camps for the detention and torture of Russian minorities. Both Ukrainians and Russians following these news sites soon found themselves existing in an alternate digital reality in which Russia was completely justified in its attempts to safeguard the lives of Russian minorities in Crimea.

Yet digital propaganda does not always rely on proactive means to manipulate social media platforms and capture the attention of online audiences. Rather, it can be responsive.

Particularly, when those responding are designated trolls, employed to spam public forums and overload comments sections with misleading information or impassioned messages. These activities pose a considerable challenge as they prevent individuals from assessing the national temperament. An individual may read the comments section of a news site only to discover that the majority of readers are supposedly in favor of a certain policy, such as the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. This individual may then also come to support this policy as humans wish to belong to the majority. In this manner, public opinion and national policies also fall prey to digital propaganda.”

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