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(photo credit: Courtesy of JIDF)
An Israeli politician and pro-Israel advocates succeeded in reducing Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah's social media presence, as Nasrallah's fan page - which boasted about 9,000 supporters - was removed Monday from the social networking site Facebook.
The battle against the fan page was waged by former internal security minister MK Avi Dichter (Kadima) and the Jewish Internet Defense Force, which fights anti-Semitism and terrorism on the Web.
Facebook has rules about pages that are hateful and promote terrorist behavior, so Dichter implored his Facebook supporters to report the fan page to site managers. The JIDF sent "action alerts" to nearly 100,000 people via Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.
"It doesn't make sense that terrorists like Nasrallah, bin Laden and others should get a page on a social network that you and I and the whole family uses for pleasure," Dichter told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Online content like the pro-Nasrallah fan page is rather common, said JIDF founder David in an e-mail. He requested that his last name not be used to protect his privacy. When the JIDF comes across a site that promotes hatred, violence or terrorism, it tries to take action, David said.
Earlier this weekend, Facebook took down a fan page dedicated to Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas's prime minister in Gaza.
There are many reasons Facebook would disable a profile or page, a company spokesperson said in an e-mail. Profiles and pages that are "fake, hateful or threatening to others, or that represent or promote recognized terrorist organizations" may be subject to removal.
The JIDF found out about the Nasrallah fan page on Friday night. By Saturday afternoon, Dichter's office also heard of it. Nisan Ze'evi, a social media affairs assistant to Dichter, said he saw that the page had numerous posts and comments, and - most chilling - photos of Hitler, dead Israeli soldiers and mangled IDF tanks.
Dichter decided to use his Facebook presence to do something. He told his followers how to report the page to Facebook and to tell others about it. A group of about 15 teenagers and young adults stayed up through the night to spread the word.
The response to their calls for action was remarkable, said Ze'evi. Some Facebook users even posted Israeli content - including videos of Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli - on Nasrallah's fan page to show support for Israel.
By Monday morning, Ze'evi saw the Nasrallah page was down.
"Children in the middle of summer vacation, instead of drinking and smoking cigarettes, they're fighting Nasrallah in the virtual world," Ze'evi said.
Even though eradicating online terrorism may seem too difficult an objective, it is goals like these that help create a cohesive group and ensure that it remains active, said Dr. Yair Amichai-Hamburger, director of the Research Center for Internet Psychology at Interdisciplinary Center's Sammy Ofer School of Communications in Herzliya.
"A small victory is still a victory, and it gives them positive reinforcement for their cause," said Amichai-Hamburger. "It is worth fighting, but you have to understand that it is a constant war."
David compared the anti-terrorism battle to one with Amalek, the Biblical tribe that was the mortal enemy of the Jewish people.
"We are commanded to fight and eventually destroy Amalek, on every front from the physical to the online," he said.
Sometimes, if there is no response from Facebook to requests that they remove a terrorist or anti-Semitic page, the JIDF will take matters into its own hands.
Late last year, the JIDF successfully infiltrated a pro-Hizbullah Facebook page that was about 118,000 members strong. They are now in the midst of other campaigns, with about 10 action alerts out on Hamas, Hizbullah and jihad fan pages.