War is not a game

by Richard on November 16, 2012

I couldn’t believe the headline on readwrite social this morning: Unbelievable: The IDF Has Gamified Its War Blog

Yesterday, when I wrote about the social media campaign that Israel was waging alongside its attack on Hamas, I thought it was interesting. I thought it was a straightforward and effective way of presenting the cause behind the attack. Whether you thought the offensive was right or wrong, you had to admit the propaganda’s effectiveness.

Well, day two has changed matters. The IDF Blog now has atrocious gamification badges with points and rewards for sharing the content to social media. For example, if you visit the site 10 times, you get the “Consistent” badge. If you search the blog multiple times, you’re promoted to “Research Officer.” Yes, Israel has gamified war. This is absolutely horrendous.

This game has existed since July. But it was not displayed yesterday, when the campaign began. Now that it’s back, the world noticed. Promoting it on the front page during this military campaign is beyond crass.

An IDF spokesperson tells ReadWrite that “over the past two days the blog has experienced technical difficulties due to high traffic, and ‘IDF Ranks’ was temporarily taken down to make necessary adjustments to our systems. In no way is ‘IDF Ranks’ meant to gamify Operation Pillar of Defense or any military actions during the operation.”

The technical reason sounds plausible, although I was on the site pretty early yesterday, and I never saw a trace of it. As for whether the IDF meant to gamify the operation, by turning the game back on, they did whether they meant to or not.

Update:The Conversation: Hashing it out: Israel leverages the emergent power of the #hashtag

With #PillarofDefense, Israel this week launched the world’s first-ever hashtag-driven social media military offensive in Gaza Strip, followed by action on the ground. In direct response, the defensively-worded hashtag #GazaUnderAttack appeared on Twitter shortly afterwards.

After 24 hours, #GazaUnderAttack has now overtaken #PillarofDefense, possibly due to several highly influential Twitter accounts such as Anonymous becoming involved in what amounts to a PR battle with grave human consequences.

What does this mean? With Anshel Pfeffer from Israel’s Haaretz declaring the Israeli Defense Force operation “War By All Means”, quite simply, hashtags – reaching ubiquity in news and synonymous with politics over the past two years – are becoming leading instruments of war.

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