Security expert: Pressure social media to block terrorist incitement

The initiative is part of a larger multifaceted plan for addressing the challenge of terrorists’ brilliant use of online propaganda to hound Israel and the West.

November 17, 2016 01:35
3 minute read.
Computer hacking

Computer hacking (illustrative). (photo credit: REUTERS)

Countries grappling with terrorists who use Facebook and Twitter to incite should unite together to formulate new international standards against such activity, INSS national security expert Col. (res.) Gabi Siboni recently told The Jerusalem Post.

Even national efforts in democratic countries to restrain terrorism and incitement via social media are only at their earliest stages, making Siboni’s idea an innovative and potentially game-changing solution, though the challenges in accomplishing it are probably at least as great as the positive potential.

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The INSS expert did emphasize that the initiative – what he calls fighting on the “cognitive warfare” plane – should be carried out in consultation with the leading social media giants.

His initiative is part of a larger multifaceted plan he is proposing for addressing the challenge of terrorists’ brilliant use of online propaganda to hound Israel and the West.

Regarding Israel, he adds that a leading problem from Israeli adversaries, some linked to terrorists and some well-meaning human rights activists who downplay the challenge terrorism poses to Israel, is the power of social media to delegitimize Israel and “limit its freedom to act in self-defense.”

Even if the media has delegitimized Israel’s use of force in self-defense situations against terrorists (especially with television coverage of victims of IDF strikes), Siboni explains that social media has increased the breath of that delegitimization exponentially.

Besides using social media to delegitimize Israel, its right to self-defense and to encourage the worldwide Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, he said that social media is also used to actively incite lone wolves into attacking Israelis.

These two distinct but related trends mean that terrorists are using social media to incite violence against Israel at the same time that human rights defenders are using it to limit Israel’s ability to fight back.

Siboni said Israel has improved its efforts to counter suicide bombers and is beginning to improve tracking the social media pages of potential lone wolves in order to catch them before they act. Yet, he suggests Israel must act to proactively block terrorists’ use of social media and to reduce the impact of incitement before it turns disgruntled but benign persons into lone wolf attackers.

At the same time, he explained that Israel must continue and double its efforts in the legal and public relations sphere to cope with the propaganda impact of social media delegitimization of Israel.

Specifically, he added that ways should be found where possible to go on the legal offensive against those trying to delegitimize Israel.

Returning to his idea of international efforts, he suggested that a paradigm-shift in how the top social media conceive of themselves and operate can be achieved far better with a united international front pressing media platforms to change and developing better technologies to deal with their drawbacks.

In order to coordinate all such efforts, Siboni said Israel must establish a new situation room for networking all of the military, intelligence, diplomatic, legal and public relations efforts, specifically fighting the negative impact of social media propaganda.

He said coordination with Jewish organizations globally was also critical.

Part of the program would also include additional training for IDF commanders to be prepared for how social media can frame their activities and impact the IDF’s overall ability to use force. Even as they may already have some exposure to such issues, he implied that continued education regarding social media’s evolving challenges is imperative.

Finally, he said, it is necessary for a surge in investing funds in developing new technologies to fully address these new challenges.

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