Internet Warfare, online warefare, and the war on the web

An electronic intifada against Israel and the Jewish people

Internet Warfare

Back Story on Wiki Project Palestine

Back Story on Wiki Project Palestine

By Andre Oboler, a Zionism On The Web special, May 15 2008

First interest

I first became concerned about attempts to 'game the system' in July 2007 when I noticed the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions page kept having criticism removed. At the time I was a PhD candidate in the UK and had come across ICAHD material on campus. Looking at the Wikipedia discussion page I saw it was included as part of something listed as 'Project Palestine'. Given that goals of project Palestine were advertised as being to "create and maintain fair and unbiased information on Palestine, including history, culture, and geography" (source), I found this inclusion rather odd. I contacted one of the administrators (source) who had previously commented on the talk page and point out that this was not within their projects stated scope. At the time I said "This entire project looks like an organised attempt to make Wikipedia POV. The use of the 'See also' section that simply links to other groups in ideological agreement seems further evidence of this." The Admin replied thanking me for bringing this to their attention but said that "WikiProjects are informal - there is no regular policing" (source).

Academic discussion

In November 2007 I present Project Palestine to an academic audience, this was part of a public lecture I gave on the topic of Online Public Diplomacy. Back then Facebook had 60 million users, today it has 110 million. With growth like that and the huge amount of personal data involved it is understandable that Facebook and not Wikipedia has been the hot story in the press.

Project Palestine

Back to Project Palestine. I spotted an anomaly in the addition of pages to project Palestine by people who are not logged in. Looking at the contributions made by the IP address that added ICAHD to Project Palestine, the sole contribution seems to have been adding pages to the project (source). The user added a significant amount of pages over three days. This is highly irregular and the time delays (sometimes three additions a minute) suggests they had a list they had compiled else where, and they were going through it systematically while at another computer. All we can really tell is that the connection was in Canada. Why didnít this user make the additions from the computer they were using when they first compiled the list? Why didnít they do it on the fly, adding things as they found them? Why has this IP not been used before or since this three day burst. Not even once, for example when the user forgot to log in. Very odd indeed.

User PalestineRemembered

We also see clear attempt at controlling the message and managing public relations by "PalestineRemembered", a user who is quite insistent about removing criticism from ICAHD. The name Palestine Remembered is perhaps only coincidentally, the name of a website that is coordinating a project on Google Earth to fill Israel with "destroyed Palestinian villages". This project has resulted in a city wrongly labelled as the site of a village suing Google Earth. Other villages added as part of this project and labelled as destroyed in 1948 are shown on a 1946 map (on the same site) to already be ruins.

PalestineRemembered (where or not they are related to this site) took part in a detailed discussion on the ICAHD talk page (source). This is during July when they remove a negative quote about ICAHD by Seth Friedman (Comment is Free, the Guardian) wrongly asserting he is not a journalist and that CiF is not a citeable source. The next month they attack the use of criticism of ICAHD from CAMERA and call CAMERA a hate site. They even go so far as to draw a comparison with Holocaust denier and liar David Irving! This is all still visible on the talk page (source). They made similar accusations in a debate about the Jewish Lobby (source) and (source). This user has been given a number of awards by other users, one for "For defending Wikipedia from being used as an Israeli public relations tool against Palestine" and one as "a token of admiration for your tireless yet futile attempts to rid Wikipedia of its anti-Palestinian bias." As to the sources they do use, JewsAgainstZionism, a Naturei Karta site, can hardly be considered to have the reliability they demand of others.

Conclusion

The ICAHD article is easy to track as it is a small article with few edits, many of which blatantly show how it is being managed. PalestineRemembered is an example of a user who has been blatant in trying to manage the agenda. This is just one example. In trying to kill off an attempt by CAMERA to get pro-Israel people involved in Wikipedia, Electronic Intifada may just have thrown a spot light on a far more successful campaign to manipulate Wikipedia... the campaign that caused CAMERA so much concern in the first place.

NB: For disclosure, I began working at NGO Monitor in September 2007 as a Legacy Heritage Fellow. The position is for one year, and will end in August 2008.


The Electronic Intifada, CAMERA, Wikipedia incident

The following articles are all related to this topic

Introduction: the Wikipedia, Electronic Intifada and CAMERA story  
By Andre Oboler, Zionism On The Web, May 14 2008

In April the online Palestinian advocacy group Electronic Intifada released a story stating that CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) a pro-Israel media monitoring group was attempting to take over wikipedia. This collection of articles reveals Electronic Intifada's use and manipulation of Wikipedia to attack CAMERA, promote their content and "point of view" and use the administrative process at wikipedia to first ban members of CAMERA and then increase some of these bans so they become perminent. While Electronic Intifada present CAMERA's actions as a new and serrious threat to Wikipedia, research shows that Palestinian advocates have been using the same tactics for years unchecked.

Electronic Intifada's Manipulation  
By Andre Oboler, Zionism On The Web, May 14 2008

Electronic Intifada wrote the story, boasted publically to a member of CAMERA's Wikipedia group, then sought to have CAMERA listed as an unreliable source. This was probably the extent of damage Electronic Intifada originally planned, however events soon moved forward as Wikipedia administrators started to react to the story. Electronic Intifada nurtured the fears of Wikipedia administrators and sought to work with some in order to impose penalties on members of CAMERA.

Evidence of the secret Palestinian group  
By Andre Oboler, Zionism On The Web, May 14 2008

The penalties imposed on members of the CAMERA group were harsh in part because it was argued that this was a new threat to Wikipedia and an example needed to be made. The feeling was that recruiting people from within grass roots advocacy organisations, enlisting experienced editors to help, and having the discussions outside of wikipedia could all contribute in a way that went against the nature of wikipedia. This was naive. Our research shows past attenpts, by Palestinian advocates, some of whom commented and pushed for sanctions in the CAMERA case, that meet all of these criteria. The admins considering the case found some of this information too, their attempts to investigate did the equivalent of starting the shredding machines.

Back Story on Wiki Project Palestine  
By Andre Oboler, Zionism On The Web, May 15 2008

This article explains how I first became concerned about Wiki Project Palestine.

Wikipedians for Palestine: Further facts  
By Andre Oboler, Zionism On The Web, May 15 2008

The evidence that there was a secret pro-Palestinian group off Wikipedia has been presented here. In this article we examine actions surrounding a user who is a member of this group and a member of Wiki Project Palestine. We provide details of on Wikipedia recruitment tactics for the off Wikipedia group, and evidence of the use of Project Palestine to target articles and influence Wikipedia democracy.

Exposed - Anti-Israeli Subversion on Wikipedia  
By Andre Oboler & Honest Reporting staff, Honest Reporting, May 14 2008

A special report from Honest Reporting, co-authored by Zionism On The Web's Dr Andre Oboler examins the issue in depth.

Wiki-Warfare: Battle for the on-line encyclopedia  
By Andre Oboler, Jerusalem Post, May 13 2008

The issue of warfare on Wikipedia is introduced, along with the role of Palestinian activists in manipulating Wikipedia

MidEast Wars hits Wikipedia  
By Tamar Snyder, The Jewish Week, May 14 2008

Tamar Snyder gives additional background, citing the Honest Reporting special report and interviewing key commentators including Zionism On The Web's Dr Andre Oboler.






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