How Social Media Fanned the Flames of Israeli-Palestinian Violence

Israeli and Palestinian extremists are leveraging each other’s social media content to radicalize their own publics and escalate violence

This post was was originally published on Tech Policy Press

The Cross Pollination Effect of Extremist Radicalization Online

Consider the evidence. For instance, hours after the ceasefire in Israel and Gaza went into effect, popular far-right accounts on Israeli social media were already consumed with new, provocative content: videos uploaded by Palestinians in Jerusalem showing themselves mocking Israeli cops in the Old City and inside the Temple Mount/Haram Al Sharif compound next to Al-Aqsa mosque.

Caption of “Lehava” protest invite: “More and more Jews are beaten up and humiliated by Arabs every day in Jerusalem. They are filming it and uploading it online, because they know nothing will happen to them. ENOUGH!”
One of the posts on “The Shadow” Facebook page, sharing a TikTok video featuring an attack on an orthodox Jew in Jerusalem’s light rail.
Posts in Arabic warning of Jewish settlers’ plans to storm Al Aqsa, featuring Hebrew posters published by Israeli far right groups, calling to visit Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day.

Key questions for social media platforms

The violent attacks over the past couple of months in Israel and the Palestinian territories were celebrated, encouraged and in some cases organized online. The fragmented information environment enabled extremists from the Israeli and Palestinian sides, as well as foreign actors (according to reports, Israeli intelligence suspects Iranian activity on Telegram and Twitter), to escalate tensions on the ground by disseminating misinformation and propaganda to their respective audiences. When each extremist group “cross pollinated” the other side’s misinformation and propaganda, often adding misleading framing, for its own benefit, they accelerated the escalation to violence. The key question going forward is what responsibility do social media platforms have in times of violent conflict, indeed war, as they are used overtly and covertly by stakeholders to escalate the violence?

Diving into digital rabbit holes since 2010.