Twitter drones – are you one of them? Part 1.

My previous post about the Israeli-Palestinian clashes has caught some attention and brought me to twitter for more than just posting links to my articles. I decided to take a deeper look at what’s going on there with regards to actual, or perceived, news reporting. Specifically I decided to take a look at the #GazaUnderAttack and #IsraelUnderAttack channels.

First, my methodology. Pretty simple actually, I just chose random users from each of the channels that I saw and send them questions contrary to their expressed opinions. Devil’s advocate, if you may.

From #IsraelUnderAttack I have received 0 (zero) responses. We’ll call this channel “Israeli”. It appears that I’ve been ignored, which is fine. It may be because I was tweeting in the afternoon here in California, and most of the people from Israel were asleep. I was hoping some would be in a closer time zone. In any case, most of the posts there were either notices about air sirens going off in Israel, or various generic notices of support from various people, nothing special.

On the #GazaUnderAttack front I was luckier. We’ll call this channel “Palestinian”. I have received a whole bunch of responses, vast majority of which were very aggressive, negative, and completely ignoring the questions I actually sent. Granted, I was expecting passionate people, but I wasn’t expecting people to curse me and wish me to die in fire just because I asked a question.

I also discovered that there are many bots (automated messages) on this channel. While there are obviously bots on the other channel as well (I guess no-one actually types the alarm notifications every 5 minutes, for example), at least they’re not aggressive, they hadn’t responded to me. The “Palestinian” bots responded very aggressively, and then went on talking to each other. In fact, I was mentioned in about 50 tweets between several users (two of whom I originally contacted, and didn’t think they were in any way related) with most of the tweets being very degrading, calling me names, and claiming that I’m part of the “hasbara” (had to look it up – it’s Hebrew for “explaining”, apparently they decided I was part of some organization).

Out of about 10 users I originally contacted, only two were real persons (as much as I could tell, at least) and actually responded to the tweets I sent in a way that showed that my tweets had been read and understood. One of them ended up claiming I’m an idiot, and then claiming (in response to my question) that he’s 11. I obviously don’t believe that, but blocked him (or her?) nonetheless just to be sure.

The other one (we’ll call him Joe) was, on the other hand, very polite (to the extend that he wasn’t cursing me or wishing me to die in fire), responsive to the actual tweets and coherent. I asked for his permission and he OK’ed mentioning him in this post, so here’s an example of one of his tweets (it came up in the discussions we had, I’ll talk about it later):

tweet

Each person has a right to have an opinion, whatever it may be. I’ve asked the user about this specific tweet, and I hope that the conversation we had was enlightening to both of us.

I’ll write a separate post about my discussions with Joe.

Conclusions

I have several conclusions I’ve drawn from my little experiment. I’ll talk here about my opinion of the bot (or bot-like) users – those who cannot or wouldn’t engage in a conversation, but will rather shout, yell, curse and degrade the opponent. Drones, if you may. I cannot tell how many of these are in the “Israeli” channel (I’m sure there are some), but from my little experiment – it appears that the vast majority of the pro-Palestinian posters are of this kind.

1. The truth is of no relevance. I posed several different questions to several different users. Some were not backed up by facts, others were. I received exactly the same kind of response. It appears that they don’t care to find the truth, and it works both ways – some of their own tweets were grossly incorrect.

2. The louder you shout – the better you’re heard. This goes well with the point number 1. If the truth doesn’t matter – you shout a lie. If you shout it loudly enough and for long enough time – the lie will become the truth. Sir Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister during World War II, had this to say on the matter:

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

This explains the huge amount of these robo-users, and their interactions between themselves. To generate “trending” issues, they need to have a huge amount of users “like”-ing their posts, and what’s better than creating a network of bots that will talk with themselves and “like” each other? Being a CS major, I know all too well how easy it is to implement.

3. They are not against violence. How can anyone claim he/she is against violence and then wish the opponent to die in fire? And if you condone violence of one group – why are you surprised the opposite group acts with violence as well?

4. Straw men are having a blast. Responses that were not curses – were responding to claims I have never made. For example, one of the bots raised the issue of the Holocaust, another mentioned God. I believe these are standard talking points programmed into these bots to come up at random times since they assume everyone challenging their opinion must be Jewish or religious.

5. The pornography of death. The last but not least, the issue may cause tensions. That’s an actual thing, apparently, that I was not the only one to notice. Most of the channel is flooded with tweets and re-tweets of various horrific images that may cause you nightmares for years to come. I’ve discussed the authenticity of these images in my other posts on the issue. However, some are most likely to be authentic, not everything is fake. But what does the posting of these pictures mean? It means that the “Palestinians” are exploiting their dead. In fact, it appears to be their main argument – the more pictures of wounded and dead they show – the more support they hope to attract. So one might think that it is in fact in their own interest to have more wounded, not less! That was, in fact, my impression. Not only my, I must add. They do not show anything other than the dead/wounded – so it appears that this is their only winning card. Coupled with the overwhelming evidence that the Palestinians are in fact using their children and women as human shields, I cannot stop but wonder – why are the Israelis blamed for that and not the Palestinians?

So as we analyze Twitter as a source of information to form an opinion – it is a total fail. At least on a topic as contentious as the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In the next post, I’ll review my discussion with the only user from the “Palestinian” channel who was able to actually have a conversation with me. I will then list my conclusions about the opinions formed by the actual people, not automated spam machines that are flooding the social networks. Granted, some extrapolation will be required, so take it with a grain of salt. I will also try to refute some of the “facts” the “Palestinian” channel real users are relying on, and maybe it will help some of the readers of this blog to make their own research and come up with their own, personal, opinion.

Your Little Advisor.

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2 Responses to Twitter drones – are you one of them? Part 1.

  1. Pingback: Twitter drones – are you one of them? Part 2. | The Little Advisor

  2. Pingback: A short reminder about the Middle Eastern affairs coverage | The Little Advisor

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