Tuesday, 1 July 2014
Our Three Boys: Social Media in the Face of Censorship
Yesterday evening I was in a shopping mall, and shoppers were glued to their cellphones and mournfully discussing with their friends the pending tragic news.
We now know that the boys' bodies were discovered by both volunteers and the army at around 5:30pm yesterday evening.
From around 6pm, the social media was carrying reports that the boys' bodies had been found - initially one body, then the other two. WhatsApp, Facebook, emails, sms messages...they all carried these rumours.
Meanwhile, the official media was stonily silent.
I think every Israeli was expecting this grimmest of news, by the time the official announcement of the tragic deaths of our three boys, Gilad, Naphtali and Yair was published around 8:30pm.
There was a similar pattern at the beginning of this tragic episode, when on Friday 13th June, the news spread throughout social media that three boys had been hitch-hiking and were missing, presumed kidnapped. There were even reports out about a phone call to the police by one of the boys, and a false report of a successful rescue mission.
This was during the period of a news blackout - which was reinforced by statements from military and political leaders who decried the spreading of rumours.
For the past two weeks, the social media carried less information, stories and rumours...in a sort of self-censorship imposed by a general feeling of civic-responsibility.
I don't know what the purpose was of the gag-orders, and leadership calls to quash the rumour-mill.
If it was to starve the Palestinians of information, then this must have had dubious results - seeing how the Palestinians have their own media, which is not controlled by Israel.
I don't see much sense in limiting the Israeli public's access to information - as this is increasingly impractical and only encourages the spread of wrong information, rather than concrete objective reports by appointed spokesmen and professional journalists.
The gag order did engender a common cause, and evoked civic responsibility along the lines of the 1st World War "Mum's The Word" secrecy campaigns.