Brave New World

For everyone who’s ever wondered “what do I need Twitter for, anyway”, it turns out that the surprising answer is: “keeping track of sovereign state declarations of war.”

No, really. My post-Hurricane Sandy restoration of internet services kicked in just in time to catch the Israeli Defense Forces announcing a major operation against Hamas on Twitter. The IDF accompanied their live-tweeting of “Operation Pillar of Defense” with video posted to YouTube of the initial strike, which killed Hamas military wing commander Ahmed al-Jabari.

Over at Foreign Policy, Uri Friedman reports that the video was briefly blocked this morning, after YouTube users flagged its content as a violation of the site’s Community Guidelines, which prohibit “graphic or gratuitous violence.” Users of Twitter have also raised the possibility that some of the IDF’s tweets (like this one) might constitute “specific threats of violence” in violation of the site’s regulations. But the video is back up, and meanwhile, the IDF has kept up a steady stream of tweets and announced Spanish and French language Twitter and Facebook pages, as they battle it out with #GazaUnderAttack for the world’s sympathy.

Direct appeals by political actors to the online court of global public opinion are not unprecedented (see, e.g., Kenya Defense Forces vs. Al-Shabaab, Twitter Edition), but this may be something new. The IDF’s initial Twitter posts preceded by several hours the government press conference announcing the operation. That means that a sovereign state chose to communicate a major policy development via online, privately owned platforms (with content restrictions!), rather than through official channels.

That rustling you hear is the sound of thousands of “International Relations in the 21st Century” syllabi being updated…

Kate Cronin-Furman


  1. I assumed the IDF twitter feed was a hoax when I read it first. Looks like “armed conflict social media consultant” has become an actual profession.

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