"Social networks are a battlefield in every respect"

Falsified picture published online

Head of the IDF (Zahal)’s interactive media department talks about the use of fake pictures by pro-Palestinian activists on social networks

Date: 13/03/2012, 12:27 PM     Author: Liron Korman, Rotem Pesso

Recently, a picture circulated on social networking sites showing a father holding his injured Palestinian daughter. After careful checks were made by officials in the interactive media department, it was discovered that the photo was not taken during the recent round of escalation, but rather in 2006. The head of the IDF (Zahal) Spokesperson’s Unit interactive media department, Captain Tzachi Biran, discussed the matter on Tuesday morning on Army Radio.

“The girl in the picture that was spread on social networks was actually injured in 2006, in a situation in which she fell from a swing. The photographer was from the Reuters news agency, and past attempts were made to recycle this image during Operation Cast Lead,” Captain Biran said.

The photo was sent out from two Twitter accounts belonging to anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian activists.

“The text on Twitter said that the picture was fresh from the current operation, but the original image includes a correction from Reuters, and we must fight this phenomenon.”

Captain Biran explained that the interactive media department works with pro-Israel bloggers from Israel and around the world, who bring attention to such phenomena.

“Once we encounter this, we immediate start to do an in-depth examination, forward the information, and respond,” Captain Biran said.

Another picture that is circulating on social networks shows a house enveloped in smoke from a large explosion. On Twitter, it was claimed that the explosion was the result of an IDF (Zahal) strike during the current round of escalation, but like the other picture, this image was also used during Operation Cast Lead.

Moreover, Captain Biran noted a case a few weeks ago in which an image said to be showing an Israeli soldier stepping on a Palestinian girl was distributed online.

“The original picture was taken in Bahrain, and the person in the photo appeared dressed as an Israeli soldier in a sloppy manner,” Captain Biran said. “An untrained Israeli eye could see that he was not Israeli.”

Captain Biran talked about the activities of the interactive media department during the current round of escalation, saying that “soldiers and officers under my command are running 20 different official pages on social networking sites and operating web sites in five different languages, including a dialogue in Arabic. We go to different channels that operate together, and whenever there is new information we are quick to respond and enter a dialogue.”

Captain Biran said that the IDF (Zahal) has an unlimited ability to cope with internet attacks from the enemy.

“We are a consistently growing and developing area in the Spokesperson’s Unit and many resources are invested in us, just as in any arena of fighting. In all conflicts, a type of virtual army is enlisted to aid us, especially in larger confrontations. We are improving day by day and are activating more capabilities.”

In summary, Captain Biran said: “We have to deal with allegations of harm to innocent civilians, allegations which try to give the current round of escalation the appearance of a massacre and war crimes. We deal with this by carefully checking all Palestinian reports, and by attempting to refute reports that appear baseless from the start.”