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Sunday, August 22 2010

Why Facebook Will Continue to Vex the IDF

HonestReporting's social media editor, Alex Margolin, contributes occasional posts on social media issues. He oversees HonestReporting on Facebook.

Despite the massive amount of attention being paid to Eden Abergil’s tasteless Facebook photos, the incident wasn't the first time the Facebooking soldiers caused headaches for the IDF.

In April, an arrest raid was cancelled after a soldier in an artillery unit revealed details on his Facebook status, writing:

On Wednesday, we are cleaning out [the name of the village] – today an arrest operation, tomorrow an arrest operation and then, please God, home by Thursday.

The IDF responded to the incident by issuing posters for army bases warning soldiers about the need for tight security. The posters noted that “not everyone is your friend” and urged soldiers not to post photos of army bases, names of units, upcoming operations, or files containing military information.


Despite the posters, the army was powerless to stop a group of former soldiers who served at a top-secret base from forming a Facebook group, complete with photos of themselves at the facility. A Yediot Aharonot reporter with no links to the base joined the group without difficulty, easily accessing the group's secret information.

Abergil’s experience is unlikely to be the last time the IDF is linked to Facebook.

Connecting more than 500 million people, Facebook is more than a giant website. It has become the natural place for people to chronicle their lives -- using it as a combination blog/photo album/Twitter feed. Users express their political and social concerns by joining groups, linking to articles and videos of interest in their status bars, and commenting on each others’ posts as a matter of routine.

So as long as Israelis continue to serve in the army during their early adulthood, remnants of their experiences will find their way into the public sphere through Facebook.

And just as college students continue to post compromising pictures of themselves at parties despite being warned that future employers are likely to see the photos, IDF soldiers -- especially after they leave the army -- will continue to post photos and information despite the knowledge the Israel’s enemies track Facebook to gather intelligence.

Previously in Alex's series: Reports of Email's Death Appear to Be Exaggerated



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