Israeli military takes the misinformation war to Youtube

The video below was posted to the new Israel Defense Forces (IDF) channel on Youtube on Monday and titled “Israeli Air Force Strikes Rockets in Transit.” It received over 200,000 views and collective 4 out of 5 star rating from Youtube users. It showed “The Israeli Air Force strikes terror operatives transferring short-range missiles destined for innocent civilians,” according to the video’s description, which was posted English, Hebrew and Arabic.

In reality, fact-finding by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem and Al Jazeera English has found that the grainy white figures loading up a truck before being blown up in the video are themselves innocent civilians. One of individuals was a 14-year-old boy. The video below has been viewed less than 30,000 times on Youtube.

The Israeli military’s Youtube videos are together a first-hand view of the war on Gaza from the perspective of Israeli warplanes. But clearly their main function is as aggressive propaganda for the Israeli war. The video above disguises the bombing of a group of civilians as a precision strike against terrorists. What’s new is that this misinformation is being distributed without mediation by any filter and with great success through a top Web 2.0 website. Youtube has become the second most popular site on the planet because of the social networking and content-creation features it brought to the medium of video. The company describes itself as “empowering them [people] to become the broadcasters of tomorrow.”

I don’t think giving any government an outlet on Youtube for unabashed pro-war propaganda serves that mission. And I wonder if, say, the governments of Iran, Russia, or Hamas for that matter would be allowed to do the same thing. At least when President-Elect Barack Obama’s team posts videos, they allows comments and video responses which appear on the same page. Not the case with the IDF’s videos. There’s nothing Web 2.0 about this propaganda which makes it any better than the old.

(Not only that, but a bunch of folks at Reddit say a user-submitted video which shows the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike in Gaza from the below on the ground has been censored.)

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