Israel Goes High Tech With Online Astroturfing

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Do you ever wonder how such a small minority has so much power online and in the media? Here's one reason:

The Megaphone desktop tool is a Windows "action alert" tool developed by give Israel the appearance of large scale online support. The tool is distributed by the World Union of Jewish Students, World Jewish Congress, The Jewish Agency for Israel, World Zionist Organization, StandWithUs, Hasbara fellowships, HonestReporting, and other pro-Israel public relations, media watchdog, or activism organizations. The tool delivers real-time alerts about key articles, videos, blogs, and surveys related to Israel or the Arab-Israeli conflict, especially those perceived by GIYUS (which stands for Give Israel Your United Support) to be highly critical of Israel, so that users can vote or add comments expressing their support of Israel.

The Megaphone Desktop Tool gives the user the option of going to a particular site with a poll, and if the user chooses to go to the site, the software then casts a vote automatically, when this is technically feasible. The vote is chosen automatically by the distributors of Megaphone.

Giyus tries to save you the time and effort of locating the voting form inside the website, a seemingly simple task that may prove quite confusing at certain sites. Whenever we technically can we direct you straight to the voting action. If you have arrived at the poll results, it means that you were directed straight to the voting action and have already successfully voted. If for some reason you don't care to vote, you can always use the "No Thanks" link in the article alert popup.

In the original version, the user was offered the option to vote or not to vote but was not offered the option to choose their own vote.

According the Jerusalem Post, Amir Gissin, head of the Public Affairs Department of the Foreign Ministry of Israel, has expressed support for the tool's use. "The Foreign Ministry itself is now pushing the idea, urging supporters of Israel everywhere to become cyberspace soldiers in the new battleground for Israel's image." it reports. Computing website The Register has described use of the software as "highly organised mass manipulation of technologies which are supposed to be democratising" and claimed Megaphone is "effectively a high-tech exercise in ballot-stuffing"[12] The Register also reported that the BBC History magazine website "noticed an upsurge in voting on whether holocaust denial should be a criminal offence in Britain. But the closing date had already passed and the result had already been published, so the votes were invalid anyway." Stewart Purvis, former editor-in-chief of ITN, has noted that an independent panel reviewing the BBC's Israeli-Palestinian coverage received a large number of letters from North America which accused the BBC of being anti-Israeli. He states there was evidence of "pressure group involvement".


 

 

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