Friday, January 23, 2009

The Israeli Military's YouTube Channel...

Social media is turning out to be a major focus of cyberwarfare.

While I was in Israel the past few weeks during the whole Gaza mess, I used Twitter to post relevant news updates from a first-hand perspective. It was intended to be a low-stakes form of citizen journalism, using social media technology as the primary vehicle.

Apparently, social media isn't just for lowly bloggers and wannabe citizen journalists anymore. As this Wired article describes, despite keeping foreign journalists out of Gaza, the Israeli military created their own must-see YouTube channel.

Shortly before the start of the war, a group of twenty-something IDF soldiers wanted some way to share their story of the conflict online. So they got their bosses' blessing to roll out a YouTube channel. Spy drones' cameras were already recording the war zone from on high, after all. IDF video teams were trained — and ready to embed with the infantry — once the ground invasion began. The footage was meant to be shared with the press, anyway. So why not let everybody see it?

Little did they know that their the site would garner international attention and rack up more than two million views. Spokesmen are now video-blogging in English and in Arabic. And there's talk in the IDF of a crafting a real-life master plan to invade social media.

Whatever you think about the actual content of the videos, it's nevertheless significant to note that YouTube is now officially an integral part of military wartime strategy.

Something to keep in mind is that both sides in a conflict will undoubtedly share social media capabilities, and the ultimate result will be transforming the YouTubes of the world into hotly contested battlegrounds for a type of cyber arms race between formal institutions, national governments, and even their militaries.

We may harken back with nostalgia to the days when YouTube was filled with homemeade videos of poor production-quality created by ordinary people who wanted to bore the rest of us to death, after all.


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