Clicking is caring

Facebook becomes an Israeli-Palestinian 'battleground'
By PETER PIATETSKY  |  January 12, 2009

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The war in Israel and Gaza has quickly expanded to Facebook, where backers of both camps are using many of the social networking site's features to voice their opinions in graphic and sometimes absurd ways. Pro-Palestinian users are changing their profile pictures to bold-faced print declaring "THE GENOCIDE GOES ON," while pro-Israel users also employ bold, but with a different message: "HAMAS, Stop Using Children as HUMAN SHIELDS."

Users can also "donate" their undoubtedly priceless Facebook statuses to an application that automatically updates it every time Hamas fires new rockets into Israel (this, by the way, is supposed to be an anti-Hamas application).

Those who feel they have not done enough to support their cause can send their friends thumbnail-sized images called "bumper stickers" (which usually have funny cat pictures or sexual innuendo) saying "Wherever I stand I stand with Israel" or "This one's for Gaza."

Unfortunately, Facebook "activism" does not end there. People can click to "Support Israel" or click to "Sympathize with Gaza" — and for those with hotter tempers, they can "Sympathize with GAZA [...] and against israel and jewry" or join a page which literally lists them as a "fan" of Hamas. (And, bizarrely, a girl whose profile picture includes bold pink text reading "Angel Princess" wrote on a discussion page, "Death 2 Israel.")

Users unhappy with simply "sympathizing" or "supporting" have escalated into deleting others' comments, groups, and even entire profiles. A group calling itself the Jewish Internet Defense Force hacked into Facebook and deleted more than 4000 profiles of people who were members of a group that claimed Israel is not a country. Others used the "report" button (which is meant to remove lewd and inappropriate content from Facebook) to delete thousands of comments and groups, leading to rival claims of "censorship."

Marielle Noble, a senior at Wellesley College, was "offended and disgusted by the status" of a Facebook friend, now defriended, that said "fuck the jews, and the united states, kill them all."

Conflicts over Facebook statuses have led to what two Daily Beast bloggers have called the "splintering of online social networks," as people defriend each other because one expresses a political position that offends the other.

But this angry defriending and careless slew of insults may be the extent of Facebook users' achievements, with so little correlation between the huge amount of idle and insulting banter online and action on the ground. Few events are being organized and fundraising groups are largely absent.

No matter how much they talk about activism, at the end of the day, the "supporters" and "sympathizers" have shown that in this conflict, their efforts amount to little more than clicking. The most active activism I could find was a woman who went to a protest, carefully documented it with her digital camera, and then posted the pictures to Facebook.

  Topics: This Just In , Internet, Science and Technology, Technology,  More more >
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