Israel Hires Internet Soldiers to Penetrate American Forums, Chatrooms
Wed, 07/20/2011 – 19:47
by James_Madison_Lives aka Voodoo101
Via DAILY PAUL
File under “cat out of the bag.” “Israel hires Internet soldiers,” Israeli students and demobilized soldiers get paid to pretend they are just regular folks and leave pro-Israel comments online. Israeli Foreign Ministry Deputy Elan Shturman is quoted from the Israeli Occupation Magazine saying:
“Our people will not say: ‘Hello, I am from the hasbara department of the Israeli foreign ministry and I want to tell you the following.’ Nor will they necessarily identify themselves as Israelis,” he said. “They will speak as net-surfers and as citizens, and will write responses that will look personal but will be based on a prepared list of messages that the foreign ministry developed.”
Counterpunch’s Jonathan Cooke in “Israel’s Internet Wars” describes:
a special undercover team of paid workers whose job it will be to surf the internet 24 hours a day spreading positive news about Israel. Internet-savvy Israeli youngsters, mainly recent graduates and demobilised soldiers with language skills, are being recruited to pose as ordinary surfers while they provide the government’s line on the Middle East conflict…About $150,000 has been set aside for the first stage of development, with increased funding expected next year.
“paid Internet talkbackers are being mobilized in the service of the State. The Foreign Ministry is in the process of setting up a team of students and demobilized soldiers who will work around the clock writing pro-Israeli responses on Internet websites all over the world,”
The team will fall under the authority of a large department already dealing with what Israelis term “hasbara”, officially translated as “public explanation” but more usually meaning propaganda. That includes not only government public relations work but more secretive dealings the ministry has with a battery of private organisations and initiatives that promote Israel’s image in print, on TV and online.
Quoting Deputy Foreign Minister Shturman, Counterpunch reported:
“During Operation Cast Lead…We gave them background material and hasbara material, and we sent them to represent the Israeli point of view on news websites and in polls on the internet.”
Operation Cast Lead was the Israeli bombing attack on Gaza which killed 1400 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, and razed large parts of the Gaza to the ground. Israel maintains that the campaign was in response to an increase in home-made rocket attacks on Israel, which since 2001 have killed 26 Israelis. Gaza remains under blockade, with a enforced shortage of food, medicines, and basic supplies necessary for daily life. (Amnesty International Report: “Operation Cast Lead: 22 Days of Death and Destruction”)
Cooke at Counterpunch also writes that “About 50,000 activists are reported to have downloaded a programme called Megaphone that sends an alert to their computers when an article critical of Israel is published. They are then supposed to bombard the site with comments supporting Israel.”
Deputy Minister Shturman says in Israeli Occupation Magazine:
Our objective is to penetrate into the world in which these discussions are taking place, where reports and videos are published – the blogs, the social networks, the news websites of all sizes. We will introduce a pro-Israeli voice into those places.
Michal Carmi, a blogger and associate general manager at the high-tech placement company Tripletec, was recruited to the online policy-explanation team. He told Occupation Magazine:
“During Operation Cast Lead the Foreign Ministry wrote to me and other bloggers and asked us to make our opinions known on the international stage as well. They sent us pages with ‘taking points’ and a great many video clips. I focussed my energies on Facebook, and here and there I wrote responses on blogs where words like ‘Holocaust’ and ‘murder’ were used in connection with Israel’s Gaza action…Several times the Foreign Ministry also recommended that we access specific blogs and get involved in the discussions that were taking place there.”
A “blog” in this usage could be any kind of online forum.
Canadian author, columnist for the Vancouver Courier, and critic of Israeli government policies Greg Felton writes:
“If you’ve come across a hasbarat, on-line or otherwise, you have learned that no amount of reasoned argument or intellectual maturity has any effect. That’s because hasbarats don’t care if they come across as ignorant, obnoxious, nasty or inane. All that matters for them is sabotaging criticism of Israel and support for Muslims. They’re like anti-intellectual stink bombs: designed to cause maximum discomfort… “
The missions: “monitoring” and “fostering discussions”
The Foreign Ministry intends to recruit youths who speak at least one foreign language and who are studying communications, political science or law, or alternatively those whose military background is in units that deal with information analysis. “It is a youthful language”, explains Shturman. “Older people do not know how to write blogs, how to act there, what the accepted norms are. The basic conditions are a high capacity for expression in English – we also have French- and Swedish-speakers – and familiarity with the online milieu. We are looking for people who are already writing blogs and circulating in Facebook”.
This news follows the revelation earlier this year that the software exists, being purchased by the US military, to create multiple “online personas” which can be operated by one person, to infiltrate blogs, forums, and social media.
According to Solicitation Number: RTB220610 , the armed services division sought a software program that could manage 10 personas per user, including background; history; supporting details, and cyber presences that are ” technically, culturally and geographacilly [sic] consistent. Individual applications will enable an operator to exercise a number of different online persons from the same workstation and without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries. Personas must be able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world and can interact through conventional online services and social media platforms. The service includes a user friendly application environment to maximize the user’s situational awareness by displaying real-time local information.”
MAP: New York Times map of illegal West Bank Israeli settlements to date:. (All the balloons are in territory that is supposed to be Palestinian.)