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Technology vs. Terrorism Part 2: What Helps Us Can Also Harm Us

Aug 15, 2014

This past week, the ThinkInk team discussed at length how advancements in technology have impacted our lives, and how we’re dealing with the war on terrorism. Is technology aiding terrorism’s global pursuit, or fighting it for the good of all humanity?

The integration of technology and terrorism is evident today in one of the world’s most current and prolific battle: the never-ending crisis between Israel and Palestine.

The conflict dates to 1948, when Palestine nations attacked Israel to oppose the United Nations’ efforts to divide Palestine into two nations: one Arab, one Jewish. Sixty-two years later, technology makes it possible for global warfare to impact civilization beyond the local communities physically there to witness and experience it.

The accessibility and reach of social media have challenged traditional news outlets, many of which are often criticized for being biased or delivering incomplete information. Conversely, social outlets like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram give eyewitnesses unfiltered avenues that allow them to  share and broadcast with the rest of the world unedited, firsthand accounts of what is actually happening in their worlds and neighborhoods.

Hashtags for #Terrorism

Case in point: two recent Twitter hashtags, #GazaUnderFire or #PrayForGaza, tag gruesome photos of Palestinian victims in an effort to depict Israeli attacks as cruel and inhumane. In response to the hashtags, Israeli students at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya (IDC) created their own website, Israel Under Fire, to provide a view of the aftermath of Hamas attacks on their own country. Both sides have a story to tell, both have an agenda, and both use social media to spread their messages outward.

hashtag-defeats-terrorism-600x330

Mobile technology, too, is changing the face of modern warfare:

  • Downloaded by nearly 750,000 users, apps like Red Alert use real-time information transmitted from Israel Defense forces and Homefront Command to send smartphone owners a push alert – giving them a 15- to 90-second warning to seek protection when a rocket has been fired from Gaza toward Israel.
  • An SOS app allows kidnapped individuals to send a personal safety alert to family and friends by simply “swiping right.”
  • A third app uses GPS technology to help Israelis find the nearest bomb shelter.
  • Created most recently by Zochrot, a pro-Palestinian Israeli group based in Tel Aviv, the free iNakba app is designed to both inform and provoke – using a dotted Google map of Israel to show the locations of once-Palestinian territories that have since been destroyed by Israeli regimes. Released just last week, it already has 12,000 downloads.

What social media/technology do share with traditional media is interpretation: how the message is received and assimilated by its intended audience. A Hamas music video, Kum, Aseh Piguim (which translates as “Up, Do Terror Attacks”) was posted online in July with the intent to instill fear among Israelis with harsh lyrics and vivid images of bomb-making and previous deadly missile attacks.

Instead of sparking fear, the song has become an Israeli anthem, turned into ringtones and mocked on Facebook. In that regard, social media is no different than traditional media because the reader/audience can interpret the message, regardless of its original intent.

No matter which side of the fight you’re on, history has proven that – when technology, social media and warfare collide – the result can tilt toward good or evil. What we want to know is: Is there a way to find a balance?

You tell us.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or send a tweet to @thinkinkpr.

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