When Israel’s military begins to attack, so does its army of online trolls

excerpt from Mondoweiss

Act.IL is a global pro-Israel campaign at least partially funded by the country’s government.

The project includes an app that enables users to earn points and prizes for promoting the state of Israel online, by attacking BDS and other pro-Palestinian movements.

At the time the developers of the app were talking about how they were working with the Shin Bet [Israel’s internal security service] and, you know, Israeli defense officials to identify targets online and to have a sort of duty to craft responses. But they’ve kind of backtracked on that.

But basically, it’s an app which anyone in the world can download onto their phone and it identifies targets online or they call them “missions” in which pro-Israel individuals can can very easily participate in online discourse. So, it will identify a tweet for them to read, or it will identify a Facebook comment on a news article that they can like.

Essentially, it’s a way of coordinating online behavior in a way that looks organic, but is actually quite choreographed by this sort of centralized body with support from the Israeli government. And yet the intention of it is to very suddenly shape online discourse in a way that’s pro-Israel.

And a lot of them are meant to deflect from the coverage of the fact that it was Israel’s targeted killings of the Islamic Jihad officials which knowingly triggered this latest round of violence. And so a lot of the articles are trying to combat that by saying, you know, there’s rockets all the time, Israel didn’t strike first.

There’s also a bunch of missions where they’re sharing Facebook videos, for example, of rocket fire in Israel to say, you know, this is what life is like under terrorism from Gaza, that kind of thing.

Some of the missions are kind of offensive. One of them is sharing a video of a man in Israel and how his dog is being harmed emotionally by the rocket fire, so promoting the welfare of dogs in Israel. Meanwhile, I think at this point in time about 36 Palestinians have been killed.

Four of them are children. And so [the missions are about] avoiding any questions of Palestinian casualties and trying to put all of the blame on Gaza. And so those are those are the kinds of missions that are that are flooding the app at this moment.

And there were many missions that were targeting specific school board trustees and sending emails to the individuals on the curriculum committee. So, when it comes to those specific instances, I think the app can be quite powerful.

The amount of resources that they put into these kinds of campaigns, what does it suggest? Well, I don’t think it necessarily suggests that [they believe BDS is a real threat], but rather that they are not willing to allow any pro Palestinian sentiment to become accepted within today’s discourse. My impression is that is all less about the actual threat of BDS and more about the absolute intolerance towards any thing positive about the Palestinians.

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