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Sunday, December 5 2010

2 Lessons from Hamas’s Facebook Fail

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

Last week, Hamas (or someone claiming to speak for the terror group) launched an English language Facebook Page for the al Qassam Brigades – Hamas Military Wing. Within days, the group was spotted by Aussie Dave and others, who urged people to “report” the group to Facebook’s administrators.


The group was promptly removed, causing the al Qassam Brigades to lament online that “Facebook administration proves that it is a real cheap tool biased for the Zionist occupation in Palestine.”

While Facebook’s banning of a group that is blacklisted as a terror group by the State Department may not seem like a big story, there are at least two elements that are worth highlighting.

1. We can't expect Facebook to police itself.

With over 500 million members, half of whom sign in daily, Aussie Dave’s advice to press the “report page” button at the bottom of the Hamas Page was right on the money. Facebook, like YouTube, Google, and others, relies on users to flag inappropriate content.

Sites like YouTube, which gets many hours of uploads every minute of the day, generally move quickly to remove inappropriate content, but someone needs to bring the content to YouTube’s attention. And more complaints will probably bring about quicker action, so don’t assume someone else will flag something. If you see it, “report” it.

2. Hamas clearly recognizes the importance of Facebook in its effort to win support and followers.

In the battle for hearts and minds, go where the target audience goes. Today, there is no doubt that Facebook has become a central meeting place for people of all ages, races, and virtually all nationalities.

Facebook is also one of the most viral platforms on the Internet today. The site makes it extraordinarily easy to share information in any form, helping it spread from network to network quickly and efficiently. Since the average Favcebook user has 130 “friends” and no two people have the same friends, every someone reposts something he or she saw on Facebook, it reaches a whole new audience.

Just like the pro-Israel community, Hamas is fighting to win support from people who do not have strong views on the Middle East conflict. Since Hamas clearly sees English speaking Facebook users as a target audience, Israel’s supporters should make every effort to ensure that their pro-Israel message is heard on Facebook.

Maybe next time Hamas attempts to start a group, it won’t be stopped so quickly.

Previously in Alex's series: The Internet Ain't "Public Domain"



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