An Israeli peace activist publication called “Occupation Magazine” has printed an article called “The Foreign Ministry presents: talkbackers in the service of the state.” It starts “After they became an inseparable part of the service provided by public-relations companies and advertising agencies, paid Internet talkbackers are being mobilized in the service in the service of the State. The Foreign Ministry is in the process of setting up a team of students and demobilized soldiers who will work around the clock writing pro-Israeli responses on Internet websites all over the world, and on services like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. The Foreign Ministry’s department for the explanation of Israeli policy is running the project, and it will be an integral part of it. The project is described in the government budget for 2009 as the ‘Internet fighting team’ – a name that was given to it in order to distinguish it from the existing policy-explanation team, among other reasons, so that it can receive a separate budget… From the primary budget, about NIS 200 thousand will be invested in round-the-clock activity at the micro-blogging website Twitter, which was recently featured in the headlines for the services it provided to demonstrators during the recent disturbances in Iran.”
I wrote an article on this some months back when, during the Gaza invasion, it became obvious that many blog items were coming from a common source, i.e. Israeli soldiers working the internet to put out their government’s point of view on sites like Huffington and Washington Note. The US Department of State has been doing the same thing on Islamic sites, but its talkbackers are required to identify themselves as US government. There are two interesting aspects of the Israeli policy – first that it will mean that there will likely be a lot of “false flag” material appearing in which the real identity of the blogger will be deliberately concealed and the material being presented will be fabricated. And second that the Israelis (among others) have learned the lesson coming out of Iran, realizing that twitter and other tools have changed the name of the game, making it possible to manipulate large numbers of people quickly and effectively if the right buttons are pushed.