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Thursday, July 24, 2014

What you write on social media can get you into trouble

Three soldiers and a civilian have been arrested for disclosing on WhatsApp the identities of Israeli casualties in Operation Protective Edge before the families had been informed.
The soldiers, who come from the Medical Corps, the Human Resources Directorate, and the Military Rabbinate, are accused of sending information about the identities of soldiers killed in action before the names had been made public. The messages that made their way around Israel included photos of the coffins of soldiers being prepared.

In a number of cases, relatives who received the messages learned of their loved ones’ deaths before they had received an official notification from the IDF. In other cases, false information reporting that soldiers had been killed had made it to their relatives. Those relatives spent hours thinking that tragedy had befallen them before the mistake could be clarified by the IDF.

“Notifying a family of a soldier or an officer who was killed in action is one of the most sensitive and well-planned procedures that exist in the military, as befits such a serious moment,” the military said.

The IDF said that the arrests followed an investigation that it described has having employed “both open-source and undercover means.”

“The unauthorized WhatsApp messages were irresponsible and spread quickly across social networks,” it said.

The issue of information passing via WhatsApp has been a serious one as of late for the army. A commercial played in recent weeks on Army Radio has instructed soldiers not to talk about operational information on the application for fear it could fall into the wrong hands.
While these arrests will certainly have a deterrent effect, I don't think they will change anything in the long run. We live in a global village and foreign media report things that the Israeli media tries to keep secret for far too long. While I agree in principle that families of casualties ought to hear about it from the IDF (where there are units that are trained in how to inform families) and not from the media, I also believe that the government and the IDF are not realistic about how quickly stories spread in this country. This is a small country, nearly everyone in the work place has been involved in the military at some point, and what you hear at a water cooler during your coffee break at the average high tech company is probably far more informative - and tempting to spread - than anything you might read on Israel Matzav. In fact, many people argue that with the rise of Twitter and WhatsApp and other instantaneous methods of disseminating information, blogging may soon be (or may already be) passe.

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At 10:41 AM, Blogger Shaun said...

I understand the issues with our global village and the speed in which news travels, but in the case of a Military tragedy, when none of the soldiers in the unit are able to communicate with the outside world their is a limited amount of people who could have leaked this info and they should be harshly dealt with.

At 3:48 PM, Blogger Professor Miao said...

I'm with Shaun. I can't imagine anything worse than learning that your husband was killed via twitter. That is just not acceptable.


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