Tag Archives: Facebook

#GazaChat connects the world to Gaza

Gaza chat

A little known secret must be shared.

I never would have had the opportunity I had living and teaching in Gaza (Sept. 2012 – May 2013) if it hadn’t been for the Palestinian friends I made on Facebook during the heady days of the Arab Spring in 2011.

My nephew was responsible for setting up my Facebook account in 2007 or 2008 over my initial resistance. I just couldn’t imagine how Facebook might improve the online messaging experience I already had with email.

I know some friends in my cohort (50s, 60s and 70s) who refuse to take the leap into Facebook or, if they do, they carefully circumscribe their “friends list” and the online experience. They hope to maintain a semblance of privacy on a very public social media tool.

I did just the opposite. I want everything to be public. In the early days, I searched out interesting people (like authors and leaders in different fields) to request their “friendship” on Facebook. One led to another, and to another, until I had a critical mass of “friends”, many of whom I didn’t know personally but I liked their minds. I appreciated what they wrote or posted on Facebook.

Facebook all Over the World

I knew the downsides of Facebook — the silo effect which might trap me in an echo-chamber of like-minded “friends”; the craziness from the trolls on social media; and the ugliness from obnoxious idiots. Thankfully, I’ve been able to tiptoe around the minefield and avoid most of the traps I’ve been warned about.

During the Arab Spring uprising in Cairo in early 2011, a young Palestinian from Gaza reached out to me on Facebook. I don’t know how he found me, but our only connection seemed to be English and a mutual interest in the Arab Spring revolution. When he told me he was from Gaza, my typing fingers started whizzing along on the keyboard, recalling my first visit to Gaza in 2004. I wanted to hear more about his life in Gaza.

One thing led to another — as so much with life on Facebook does — and I met more Palestinians in Gaza, and a university professor from Gaza, and then secured an invitation to visit Gaza. Al-hamdulillah!

Israel has had a stranglehold on Gaza for the past 10+ years, preventing Palestinians from leaving and, more recently, preventing foreigners from entering the Gaza Strip. Social media provides the critical connection to the outside world from the “largest open air prison in the world.

According to a 2016 report published by the Palestinian company Concepts, approximately 1.7 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip use Facebook, while more than one million use WhatsApp and more than 300,000 use each of Twitter and Instagram.

Now I have a Twitter account (although I’ve decided to avoid Twitter since the Tweeter-in-Chief began polluting the airwaves).

I’m stepping into the world of Twitterstorms and Twitterchats because I see a glimmer of what the future holds. The benefit of tweeting in 160 characters still seems a bit elusive to me but I’m willing to learn. What new path might this reveal?

Gaza chat

The Twitterchat tomorrow (August 8, 2017) is organized by Just World Books and Just World Educational which provide the following explanation:

How does a Tweetchat work?

A tweetchat is a semi-structured, Twitter-based conversation that’s held at a designated time and built around participants’ use of a single hashtag– in our case, #GazaChat. Our two planned #GazaChats will run:

  • On Tuesday, August 8, 10-11 am ET (5-6 pm Palestine Time) and
  • On Tuesday, August 22, 10-11 am ET (5-6 pm Palestine Time)

If you are on Twitter, we hope you’ll join them both! Simply log on to Twitter at (or slightly before) the designated start-time, and search for the hashtag

#GazaChat, which we will all be using.

Once you’ve done that search and arrived at the #GazaChat screen, be sure to:

  • from the options near the top, choose the “Latest” view (circled in the screengrab above);
  • refresh the page frequently (the “Refresh” button is also circled); and
  • remember that you can post your own tweets directly from the search page– and when you do so, Twitter automatically adds the hashtag to your tweet!

It is actually easier to refresh the search if you use a mobile device, where you do it simply by swiping down on the screen. Whatever device you use, though, you’ll likely find there’s a time-lag of around 20 seconds between when someone posts a tweet with the hashtag and when it shows up in the search.

For the hour of the tweetchat, our hashtag will function as our (globe-circling) chat room! By the way, for most participants, joining the conversation is a text-only experience, so you’ve no need for any fancy internet connections.

To help structure each chat, we (@JustWorldEd) will throw into it a series of questions, that we’ve previously prepared on static image-slides for your easy visibility. We’ll post a new question every few minutes, and we’ll number them, Q1, Q2, Q3… They will look like the sample one shown here.

We ask chat participants to try to respect the numbering system, which helps to give some structure to what could otherwise be an unruly Twitter free-for-all. When you see a question– or a series of answers to any question– that you want to comment on, discuss, or give an answer to, please preface your answer or other contribution with A1, A2, or whatever the number is of the discussion-portion it’s related to. Twitter will then automatically include the #GazaChat hashtag on your answer, if you’re connected via the hashtag search.

You’ll need to keep your answers short, of course. But you can certainly contribute more than once to each question.

We also ask you to keep your contributions respectful to everyone– and not to hog the discourse completely.

Once the discussion on Q1 seems to have run its course, we’ll tweet out Q2… then Q3, Q4, and so on… Stay tuned to the #GazaChat hashtag so you can see and respond to each of the questions as we send them out!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Gaza, Media, nonviolent resistance, People

Facebook share

 

 

A pet peeve of mine is the vomit I see on social media.

facebook-share-icon

OK, that might sound harsh, but it got your attention and there’s a bit of truth in that description.

Facebook’s “SHARE” button is just too easy and some of us hit it without thinking, almost reflexively, again and again and again.

Maybe we think we’re doing the world a service, sharing interesting articles and “news” items that pop-up in our timeline. But when we fail to do our due diligence, and fail to check the veracity of the material we find interesting, and don’t question the source, and don’t add our own two cents to the post, we are abdicating our critical thinking skills.

Some acknowledge that they aren’t “vouching for the accuracy” of the material they share. They want their “friends” to sift through their voluminous posts and make their own determination of what’s valuable and what’s not.

Posts are a reflection of the poster. I know which friends like cute animal videos, who appreciates good cooking, who is keen about politics, and who appreciates a good laugh. Our posts reflect something about us.  And the vomit reflects very poorly on the poster. Is he/she just lazy, or unwilling to use critical thinking skills, or self-absorbed in the power of the “SHARE” button?

Frankly, I’m as guilty as the next guy in spewing junk on Facebook. I’ve been hoodwinked into believing BS without verifying.

I’ll never forget the photo I posted years ago on Facebook showing thousands of people marching across the Golden Gate Bridge in protest of ‘something or other’. The protest march was something I agreed with and I was pleased that so many agreed and were taking action.  A Facebook friend asked me if I really believed that many people would march across the bridge? I checked and learned the picture had been photoshopped. I was humbled and contrite, but it taught me a good lesson.

Since then I’ve learned about confirmation bias, and I’ve tried to avoid making the same mistake.

My advice to Facebook friends:

  • Do your own due diligence and don’t cop out with the excuse that you don’t vouch for anything you post.
  • Think twice, thrice before hitting the SHARE button. The Facebook algorithim might have posted the same material on many of your friends’ walls.
  • Add your own thoughts to the post to show others why you think this article might interest them.
  • Remember, your posts reflect on your critical thinking skills. If you value such skills, use them.

I will do my best to follow my own advice because I know the lure of the SHARE button blinds me as well.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Media, Uncategorized

The Art of Personalizing Propaganda

Without really understanding how Facebook works, (which posts are visible on my news feed? why don’t I see all of my 2,682 friends’ posts?) I’ve been very worried that I’m stuck in an information silo.

Ralls_Texas_Grain_Silos_2010

I suspect that Facebook is reinforcing my existing beliefs and biases by only showing me content that is similar to what I’ve “liked” and  “content that makes [me] uncomfortable, is filtered out.”

That’s not what I want — I really do want to see a diversity of opinions and that’s why I’ve added friends who may not share my opinions — but I think I’ve fallen victim to the silo trap.

Thanks to Gilad Lotan, a self-described data visualization geek from NYC, my fears have been confirmed in his intriguing article, Israel, Gaza, War & Data — social networks and the art of personalizing propaganda. Gilad combines super-duper graphics with his analysis of social media algorithms in a very convincing argument that we (those of us using social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) are burying ourselves in propaganda silos. Yikes!

A healthy democracy is contingent on having a healthy media ecosystem.

I joined Facebook reluctantly a few years ago at my nephew’s urging. “Oh Aunt Lora, you’ll be able to share photos with the family!” The magic threshold was probably 200 or 300 friends. Until then, it was boring and I rarely checked it.

Then I began to see the potential.  I could read posts of friends-of-friends, and they could read mine. I focused on my areas of interest (climate change, sustainable development, city planning, politics and the Middle East) and I “liked” pages of interest and began to connect with more people who shared my interests. Gilad writes: “We construct a representation of our interest by choosing to follow or like specific pages. The more we engage with certain type of content, the more similar content is made visible in our feeds.”

Now I have “friends” from all over the world — Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Germany, Austria, UK, France, Sweden, Norway, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Venezuela, and points in between. Most of them I’ve never met in person, but many I have.

I’ve never “unfriended” someone for disagreeing with me, but I suspect several have “unfriended” me. I cherish a diversity of opinions, I just don’t have time for rudeness or disrespect.

Take Egypt last summer for example.

It seemed to me that I had an equal number of “friends” on Facebook who supported the military coup and those who supported President Morsi. I engaged with them all, learning from them all, and drawing my own conclusions. One year later, I see almost nothing about Egypt in my “news feed”.  I know about the ongoing suffering and internal turmoil, and the role Egypt is playing in the miserable siege on Gaza. But my Egyptian Facebook friends have nearly disappeared. Are they dead? Fallen silent due to government censorship? I’m worried.

So back to my silos.

Another Facebook friend from Gaza, someone I met in person during my extended visit, recently opined that “Homogeneous societies or groups are usually conservative and they are putting us at risk and danger! Diversity is power, essential and necessary.”

I think he’s on to something here.

The topic for another blog post, but I think my personalized Facebook has become just a little too homogeneous for comfort. I’m going to search for some new friends from Mongolia.

I highly recommend Israel, Gaza, War & Data — social networks and the art of personalizing propaganda.

Leave a comment

Filed under Media, People

Speedy social media

“The greatest strength of social media is its speed.”  That’s the take-away message I received from the presentation today at the Center for Political Development Studies in Gaza.

Robson Brown, part of an academic delegation from Bradford University in the UK visiting the Gaza Strip, spoke to an audience of about 20 people.   He talked about the important role of citizen journalism (ordinary people making news reports) to get accurate and timely news out and to correct the media bias that we all know exists, especially regarding the Israeli occupation.

Robson Brown

Robson Brown

2013-03-30 17.47.04One example of the benefits of social media Brown shared concerned Ben Ali.  The Tunisian President was flying all over the world in his official presidential airplane while he was censuring the news at home. The official government news reported that he was in Tunisia.

He couldn’t hide his plane from a whole network of activists in different countries who began sighting his plane landing in capitals in far-flung places. They started tweeting his whereabouts.   Ben Ali was outed by a well-organized social media campaign, and the cat was out of the bag.

Robson Brown gave some good practical tips about using social media strategically to get your message out.   Did you know that too many #hashtags make the message less interesting?   On the other hand, you want to use lots and lots of key word tags on Facebook and YouTube to draw more attention.

But the planned 2 hour workshop was cut short after one hour.  The audience clearly was hoping for more . . . and I was too.  Maybe Brown will return for a follow-up meeting.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaza, Media, Video

Facebook diplomacy

I was having a “conversation” on Facebook last night — as much as a conversation can be had on social media I guess.  My conservative, Republican, lawyer friend from Albuquerque and I were “debating” gun control.  We knew we weren’t going to change each other’s perspective, but the great thing about Facebook is that anyone can be watching.

Someone was reading our exchange —- maybe a friend of a friend of a friend.  A high school student from Fort Collins, Colorado.   He jumped into the conversation supporting my conservative, Republican, lawyer friend which might be consistent with the predominately conservative opinions flowing from Fort Collins.

Then he posted this:

“I met a man and we exchanged dollars. We each walked away with one dollar.  I met a man and we exchanged ideas.  We each walked away with two ideas.”

BOOM!  A flash of enlightenment.   The importance of exchanging ideas, listening to each other even when we don’t agree.  Learning from each other.

The problem with Facebook is that people tend to gravitate to others who share their opinions.  They “like” friends who agree with them.  Perhaps it’s the human condition — to associate with like-minded people.  Or perhaps it’s merely a desire to stay within our comfort zone – “please don’t challenge my beliefs.”  Or maybe we pump up our faltering egos by counting those “likes” to our comments.

Whatever the reason, Facebook can be a dangerously narcissistic past-time, not to mention it is addictive.

10428718-cool-cartoon-smiles-emoticons

Last night, that high school student from Fort Collins reconfirmed for me the benefit of exchanging ideas with people on Facebook.

I have “unfriended” people whose opinions and political leanings are closely aligned with my own simply because they can’t carry on a respectful conversation.  I will never “unfriend” someone whose opinions are different from mine, so long as she wants to engage and exchange ideas.  Then we can both walk away with two ideas.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Peaceful

Sunday in Gaza

Following the massive Loma Prieta earthquake in California in 1989, I was glued to the radio and TV to learn the news about the situation, and talking with friends, family and neighbors.

Here in Gaza, the same feeling of urgency exists, but as an American who doesn’t understand Arabic, I’m in a very different information zone.

My Palestinian family has the TV and radio on constantly (when there is electricity) and the news is non-stop about the Israeli assault.  (I refuse to call it a war because that would imply that the sides were equal.)

The family draws comfort from visitors and phone calls and Skyping, all in Arabic.

I studied Arabic for a year in the US before arriving in Gaza in September, but it is a very difficult language to learn, or maybe I’m just too old to get my head wrapped around it.

So how am I staying informed?

When we have electricity, I am “on” Facebook and Twitter reading and posting furiously.  Sifting through the propaganda from both sides is challenging, but I’m getting better at recognizing which sources of information are legit and which are hype.

Last night a big press conference was announced here.  Hamas was going to make some dramatic news and there was alot of excitement.  I scratched my head in frustration.  How was I going to understand it?

Then my friend in the USA started to message me with simultaneous reactions from a UK journalist who was listening to the press conference.  And a Palestinian friend who speaks English was posting a real-time translation on Facebook.  An amazingly small world with all this social media!

I’m concerned that I will feel starved for information if the Internet goes down.   Fortunately, someone is thinking about that and has posted alternative ways to access the Internet especially for us.  See here.

To the people of Gaza and the “Occupied Territories”, know that Anonymous stands with you in this fight. We will do everything in our power to hinder the evil forces of the IDF arrayed against you. We will use all our resources to make certain you stay connected to the Internet and remain able to transmit your experiences to the world. As a start, we have put together the Anonymous Gaza Care Package – http://bit.ly/XH87C5 – which contains instructions in Arabic and English that can aid you in the event the Israel government makes good on it’s threat to attempt to sever your Internet connection. It also contains useful information on evading IDF surveillance, and some basic first aid and other useful information. We will continue to expand and improve this document in the coming days, and we will transmit it to you by every means at our disposal. We encourage you to download this package, and to share it with your fellow Palestinians to the best of your ability.

I haven’t shed a tear in the past four days of the Israeli assault, until yesterday when I saw pictures from home (Albuquerque, New Mexico) showing the support and solidarity from many who gathered at UNM.  Thank you!  Knowing that the world is watching this assault gives me hope.

People in Albuquerque, NM join 1000s of people world-wide protesting Israel’s assault on Gaza.

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaza, Media

Dangers of Censorship

Yesterday I posted a picture and “news” item on Facebook about a Tunisian swimmer who purportedly refused to compete against an Israeli athlete because he was in the Israeli Air Force and flew missions over Gaza. Although the information was merely based on Tweets, and unreported in the mainstream press, I posted it on Facebook.  The posting generated alot of comments, mostly respectful but in disagreement with the post.

When I returned to Facebook this morning to reread the comments, I found that my post and all of the comments had been deleted, presumably by the invisible Facebook Censors.

I then posted the following message:

Dear Facebook Censors, family, friends and fools:

Deleting my posts without my permission is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

I’m going to “save” screen shots of posts and messages which are significant to me, and repost them if necessary.

I refuse to be suckered into Winston Smith’s Ministry of Truth aka Orwell’s “1984”.

You can disagree with my posts; you can debate my posts; but you cannot silence my posts.

I suspect that someone was offended by my post and complained to Facebook, which without warning or notice, deleted the post.  If I could, I would paste that post about the Tunisian swimmer here, along with the comments.   But they are gone, just like the messages that Winston Smith deleted in his job at the Ministry of Truth.

Facebook’s censorship should alarm everyone.  Regardless of the content, whether you agree or not with the posts, the abusive power of the censorship pen (or keystroke) reaches down to touch us all.  Your ideas, his ideas, my ideas ….. all can be wiped clean by the invisible hand.

A democracy only survives and thrives with the critical thinking and discourse among its members.   Stifling free speech is abominable and the first step towards fascism.

I searched today for more information about that Tunisian swimmer and didn’t find any news agency had reported on the Tweets.   There was speculation online that the  story was a FAKE.

How easy and dangerous the Internet and Facebook are for sharing lies and truth.   I don’t want to be the conduit for propaganda or misleading information.   It appears that the story about the Tunisian swimmer has gone viral.

I’m angry.  Angry at myself for being gullible and posting a story that was likely a FAKE.   I’ve been reflecting all day about why I was prone to believe a story that “slapped Israel.”   Have I lost my objectivity in the Israel-Palestine conflict?

I’m angry at Facebook for this act of censorship.   I’m REALLY angry.   But when all is said and done, I don’t regret posting that story last night.   It helped me reflect on what makes me tick.  And it opened my eyes to the dangers of Facebook censorship.    I won’t be silenced.

Now . . . to restore some accuracy in news reporting, take a listen to NPR’s “All Things Considered” which reported today about the Jewish vote and Romney’s pandering to Israel.   The 15 minute program is here.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Politics