Clean the Net: Hamas’ Online Propaganda Machine Must Be Confronted

Clean the Net: Hamas’ Online Propaganda Machine Must Be Confronted

Ma’ariv, Israel, May 7

The deadly attack in the town of Elad, carried out last week by young Palestinians without a criminal or terrorism background, was inspired by attacks that began about six weeks ago and have claimed the lives of 16 people. Today, as terrorism rages in the streets and cities of Israel, and the discourse of hatred and incitement is flooding social networks, voices are calling for the assassination of Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar as the “snake’s head” and source of inspiration for terrorist attacks. There is no doubt that Sinwar is responsible for countless bloody incidents and murderous attacks. There’s also no doubt that his blatant call on Israeli Arabs and Palestinians to pick up axes, guns and knives and target innocent Israelis has inspired many of these attacks. However, it can be estimated that killing Sinwar will not solve the problem of terrorism. On the contrary, it may ignite the region, intensify the cycle of violence, and lead to further escalation – leading to rocket launches on Israeli cities and a full-fledged military confrontation in the Gaza Strip. Therefore, it’s time to wake up and understand that, in order to deal effectively with terrorism, especially with young Palestinian extremists, a radically different approach has to be taken. This approach must focus on what’s happening on social media platforms, and provide real-time intelligence on terrorist activities taking place in the digital space using innovative tools and advanced technologies. Analyzing the digital space and social networks by cross-referencing sources and databases makes it possible to create a profile for terrorists and potential suspects, track terrorist activity, and analyze radical content that includes texts, images and videos indicating their intentions to carry out attacks. If that is not enough, then an analysis of Hamas’ propaganda machine and oiled incitement system shows that they operate similarly to those of the ISIS network. It is also well-known that the terrorist organization uses fictitious bots and accounts for incitement, in order to sow chaos, confusion and panic among the Israeli public, and cause demoralization and internal polarization. There is no doubt that dealing with terrorist attacks, and especially with incitement hotspots in the digital space, is a complex challenge for Israel. More and more disenchanted Palestinian youth, who lost faith in the Palestinian Authority, find interest and meaning in Hamas. Israel, as a cyberpower and a start-up nation, must change its pattern of behavior, be creative and improve its methods of operation and intelligence in response to these emerging threats. – Dr. Anat Hochberg-Marom

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