Tag Archives: social media

#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!

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Gaza, Media, nonviolent resistance, People

#AskHamas

Woke up this morning and checked my Facebook and Twitter accounts for any breaking news. Surprised to learn of a social media campaign launched by Hamas in Gaza using the hashtag #AskHamas. Apparently, Hamas leaders are trying to reach western audiences (hence the English!) with the goal of breaking down the “terrorist” label that some Western governments have slapped on the group.

I applaud them for this effort, but it shouldn’t have come to anyone’s surprise that the Zionists (maybe not all Zionists but the rabid fools) have occupied the Twitter-sphere all day using foul language and grotesque pictures.

The Washington Post reported that their Twitter campaign backfired.  The Israeli ynetnews.com reported the torrent of abuse the twitter campaign has already received. The Times of Israel, ABC News, Haaretz, Times of India, and FOX News all jumped in to announce how the Twitter campaign “backfired”. I won’t be surprised if this simple Twitter campaign doesn’t make the nightly TV news in the United States this evening. I’ll be watching.

So maybe these commentators are correct, if the Hamas organizers wanted a rational Q & A on social media, then it certainly backfired because 99% (my estimate) of the Tweets appear to be from hatemongers, Zionist trolls, and Israeli apologists. They have spewed forth so much vitriolic venom in the last 12 hours that #AskHamas has actually been trending in America. Amazing!

On the other hand, if Hamas wanted to grab the attention of the western mainstream media and expose these rabid hatemongers, then this campaign has exceeded beyond anyone’s imagination.

So I encourage folks to check out #AskHamas on Twitter.  And post a serious question or two.

Apologies in advance, but I think it’s instructive to see some examples of the Zionists’ idiocy.

Kevin Long ‏@KL4AMERICA 1m1 minute ago
Maybe people would like you more if you wore your underpants over your trousers like Superman. Everybody likes him. Am I right? #AskHamas
Rebecca Thompson ‏@thisgirlsaysno 5m5 minutes ago
@AskHamas How many poots would Putin poot if Putin could poot poots? And where would he be while pooting? #AskHamas #fartjoke
The Python ‏@RozPython 7m7 minutes ago
#AskHamas Hi there. TY for doing this. What are your thoughts on the Prophet Muhammad sticking items of all shapes and sizes up his ass?

Mixty Motions ‏@iamnotchjohnson 8m8 minutes ago

Do you have bacon flavored bacon? #AskHamas

serena!!! ‏@suhhhhrena 9m9 minutes ago
@PolitiBunny: Why did the terrorist cross the road? Cuz his dick was stuck in the chicken. #AskHamas :)” wallahi white people need to stop
Chris Cross ‏@ProIsrael007 11m11 minutes ago
#AskHamas How much payola do you get from John Greyson & Demon D’Oliveria to kill Jews and, by the way, do you know they’re gay?
Robert Stanfield ‏@ReturnofBigfoot 2m2 minutes ago
#askhamas how young is too young? Does it bother you that no woman will ever truly love you? Is fear and intimidation an aphrodisiac?
Jason ‏@chopblockphx 5m5 minutes ago
How much funding is needed to step up your clothing game to suits and bowties like the Nation of Islam? #AskHamas

 Don’t these fools understand how their comments reflect back on them?  I’m embarrassed on their behalf.

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Filed under Hamas, 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.

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Filed under Media, People

Trying to understand Egypt

How is an American to understand what is happening in Egypt?

Our mainstream media seems either perplexed or disinterested, although I’ve heard good reporting from NPR this week. I think the BBC has some good coverage too.

Beware the social media activists tweeting and posting on Facebook. There are slick attempts to frame the good guy – bad guy paradigm with “facts” to sway public opinion.   It’s most definitely not that simple; no white hats – black hats on the streets in Cairo.

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The Egyptian military issued a pathetic statement to foreign correspondents on August 17 to reign them into the propaganda fold.  This should be a news item in its own right. Reminds me of the news this week from Israel: Prime Minister Netanyahu is giving Israeli university students $$ to spread good hasbara online.

I’m sitting on the other side of the world being bombarded with information about the events in Cairo, watching video clips of horrible atrocities with commentary explaining what the “terrorists” on each side are doing. It’s mind-numbing and heart-wrenching.  I don’t want to be hood-winked.  I don’t want to be duped into pushing a propaganda spiel. How does an American learn the truth about what’s going on in Egypt?

  • Avoid the obvious propaganda.  My antennae have become much better over the past 12-18 months in weeding out the crazy bullshit because I have a better understanding of the different players and the language they use to sway the public.
  • Ask questions, lots of questions.  When things don’t sound right, ask where the information came from.  When people are emotionally distraught, they will pass along questionable information without verification.  I know; I’ve been guilty of just hitting the SHARE button on false or exaggerated information.
  • Cross-check information.  If one report sounds incredible but possible, see if you can find the same information reported somewhere else.

 

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Filed under Egypt, Media

Importance of media in a free society.

Discouraging news last week from Gaza.  Hamas reportedly closed down some media outlets because it claims they are spewing lies that are harmful to Palestinians.  See here and here.

The Egyptian military did the same thing after the coup earlier this month. They closed down TV and newspapers operated by the Muslim Brotherhood because of concerns that the MB might incite violence and share lies about the coup.

The Committee to Protect Journalists responded sharply.

“Governments don’t have the right to shut down news outlets just because they dispute the accuracy of a story,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “The Hamas government should immediately allow Al-Arabiya and Maan to resume their operations.”

Some of my friends in Gaza support Hamas’ decision to clamp down because “these media are spreading lies.”  WHOA!

I want to shout as loud as I can … N0! – No! – NO! – NO-O-O-O!

Government should never, ever be censoring the information that its citizens receive on radio, TV, newspapers and social media.

1004493_697652456928439_1321836128_n

There is certainly plenty of garbage, lies and propaganda hitting us every day. FOX News in America is a media sewer as far as I’m concerned. The US government doesn’t close it down, and I don’t want the government to step in-between me and FOX News.  Why?

  • I’m an adult who consumes news and information with a critical mind. 
  • I don’t want the government deciding what is, and is not, information I should receive.  That is both patronizing and dangerous.  It is also a very slippery slope.
  • I learn as much about an issue by listening to the lies as I do the truth.
  • I don’t want the media to be the mouthpiece for the government, simply regurgitating what the government believes is information good for me.
  • I want media to be a watchdog of government, always asking government officials tough questions.  Always digging and not accepting the story the government shares.

People are only as free as the information is available to them.  My friends should re-read George Orwell’s 1984, which, interestingly, has been flying off the bookshelves in the wake of the NSA surveillance scandal this summer.

So my friends in Gaza ask “What do we do about the filthy lies that are being spread about Hamas?”

  • Fight lies with truth.  Explain to the public why the lies are lies by speaking the truth.  
  • Provide more information from reliable sources that have strong credibility with the community.
  • Be open and transparent.  Government can only be trusted if there is plenty of sunshine on its activities.
  • If the government believes that the media is sharing lies which will hurt the people, then the government should take the media to court and prove that the information is false and defamatory.  An open and fair trial is possible if Palestinians follow the Rule of Law.
  • Closing down the media or intimidating journalists is not the sign of a “responsible” government, but a government that prefers to control and operate in the dark where people can’t see its actions.

In November 2012, Israel targeted media offices in Gaza during its 8 day bombardment.  That was an act of desperation because Israel knows how a free media is a powerful deterrent to the lies and propaganda that Israel wants to spread about the occupation.  I hope Hamas doesn’t fall into the same habit of attacking the messenger instead of the message.

Media tower in Gaza City. Israel shelled it for a second time 19-11-12 .... with journalists inside.

Media tower in Gaza City. Israel shelled it for a second time 19-11-12 …. with journalists inside.

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Filed under Hamas, Media

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.

 

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Filed under Gaza, Media, Video

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.

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Filed under Gaza, Media