September 07, 2006

Israel's Megaphone: Desperation?

A coalition of pro-Israeli groups called GIYUS (Give Israel Your United Support) has launched a piece of software called Megaphone which brings up desktop alerts that encourage people to participate (and do so in a pro-Israeli fashion) in online polls, phone votes and discussion forums.

The website says:

Today’s conflicts are won by public opinion. Now is the time to be active and voice Israel’s side to the world.

What’s more, a spokesman from the Israeli Foreign Ministry has publicly called for Israelis abroad to download the software and get voting.

It’s potentially a controversial idea. By organising so carefully, GIYUS has the potential to sway almost any opinion poll in the world that allows anyone to vote.

BBC History magazine has already discovered that its polls can be swung in this way, and has had to pull a vote about whether holocaust denial should be a criminal offence.

Megaphone screenshotMany will argue that GIYUS is essentially trying to ‘rig’ the polls in order to make Israel look better. But how easily influenced are people? If they see that 67% of people think holocaust denial should be made illegal, are they likely to change their mind?

GIYUS will say that they’re doing what they’re doing because Israel needs defending against the pro-Palestinian media. And while it may be a questionable thing to do, is it surprising given the way these polls operate? Perhaps this piece of software might make media organisations rely less on the power of the opinion poll (Sky News does it with depressing intensity). Otherwise we’ll now have to take such polls with a greater pinch of salt.


- 4 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. I have seen the fact that opinion polls are in favour of Israel used in discussions online. Whether or not it would change anyone’s mind is another issue, but it certainly has the potential to have an effect.

    I also know that some people will not post blog entries about Israel, or engage in discussions about it because you are guaranteed to have such an aggressive response. This software will increase that effect.

    Incidentally, I suspect that even before this software appeared, this sort of organised web behaviour existed. After all, big companies manipulate blogs for their own gain, why wouldn’t governments do the same?

    07 Sep 2006, 15:44

  2. Chris Doidge

    Yeah, my blog posts are often filled with at least a little opinion, but I tend to steer clear when talking about Israel as I know what Google will do to me…

    07 Sep 2006, 20:33

  3. Hamid Sirhan

    I began writing a little bit of a series on Hasbara last year on my blog before it kind of died on me: http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/hsirhan/entry/on_israeli_hasbarah/

    But this isn’t something unusual for Israeli/Pro-Israeli hasbara.

    This is merely a progressive extension of its already-extensive political activities across the UK, Europe and the US. This isn’t the first time the web has been used for political hasbara:

    http://www.campus-watch.org/ is a particularly vicious example.

    http://www.memri.org/ is one of the more insidious sites around.

    Then there are the more “official” ones – which I shouldn’t have to link to: us-israel.org, the ADL website, B’nai B’rith etc.

    And that’s not to mention the more atrocious ones: http://www.masada2000.org

    ---------—-

    There have been net campaigns in the past. Many people notify emailing lists about articles which dare criticise Israel and are therefore, clearly anti-Semitic and a vertiable example of something Hitler himself would have written, and encourage the recipients to respond to the article either through emailing the author, publisher, posting on the forums or leaving messages on the site itself. This is often conducted in an inappropriate, offensive and harrassing manner and can be found on any site dealing with the Israel-Palestine issue.

    To see it in action, take a look at any of the articles on a daily basis on the online edition of haaretz (www.haaretz.com) and check out the comments.

    I remember reading a wonderful article by Fisk on his personal experiences concerning the issue – reprinted online at counterpunch here: http://www.counterpunch.org/fisk0513.html

    - So yeah, it’s not surprising. And it can have an influence. A BBC poll might be reported internationally and televisually. So let’s have a hypothetical example:

    British Jewish representatives recently reported that there has been a “major” increase in anti-Semitism in Britain (somewhat blurred by their inclusion of criticisms of zionism/Israel as being anti-Semitic). Now this has been taken up by many as being representative of how Europe is on the verge of another holocaust… yet other minorities in the UK are far worse off than British Jews who, it can happily be argued, are the most well-off, educated and protected minority group in the UK. Black Brits, Arab Brits, Muslim Brits, Sub-continental Asian Brits, Chinese/East-Asian Brits etc. etc. face far more racism on a daily basis.

    To give recent examples from my Warwick days. Any time I would walk back with Chinese friends from Wing Wah in Tile Hill to campus, my friends would receive very vocal verbal abuse from locals. I knew several Muslims (of Asian origin) who were physically assaulted outside of campus, in Tile Hill and Coventry, on the basis of their race. It was very common. The closest thing I ever saw to Anti-Semitism on campus was a Barber asking if I was Jewish on the basis of the way I looked.

    Now if the BBC takes a poll and it is affected by these sorts of mobilisations and comes up with “85% of those polled see a major rise in Anti-Semitic feeling in the UK” then it will have its effect. Especially when Fox or CNN pick up these polls and report it as general public opinion.

    Woooo you’ll have to forgive the slight rambling – it’s about 5.00am here.

    09 Sep 2006, 21:53

  4. Christopher Rossdale

    as I know what Google will do to me…

    I’ve never really held back on this one, and the spam is minimal, non-existent really. That said, your blog does come pretty high in the google ratings. Might be an interesting experiment? ;)

    20 Sep 2006, 16:25


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