Social media experts from 15 countries joined #DigiTell18, an innovative conference in the battle against anti-Israel bias and disinformation, hosted by the Ministry for Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy.
By Alex Traiman/JNS.org and United with Israel Staff
It has taken awhile, but the government of Israel and a powerful network of pro-Israel advocates in the private sector are now proving to be a formidable opponent to the Israel-haters in countering anti-Semitic bias and spreading positive stories that represent the real face of Israel.
“For the first time, BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] groups are on the defensive,” declared Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy to a group of more than 60 social-media experts gathered in Jerusalem on Monday and Tuesday for the three-day #DigiTell18 Conference sponsored by the Ministry.
Participants arrived from 15 countries spanning six continents to hear from leading global digital experts in the private and public sectors, including Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Outbrain and the Prime Minister’s Office, about strategies and insights towards becoming better Israel activists online.
To counter the bias, Erdan said the “key roles of the pro-Israel community” are to flag anti-Semitic and inappropriate content on social platforms. He also noted exposing “pallywood productions” made by pro-Palestinian activists to paint Israel in a poor light through the intentional misuse and framing of images and videos.
“It was very successful. We received good feedback from all of the participants,” Ido Daniel, director of digital strategy at Israel’s Ministry for Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy, told United with Israel.
“The participants came from 15 countries, from Australia to Brazil,” Daniel enthused. “They are all very excited about it and learned a lot.”
“The most important outcome,” he stressed, “is that for the first time, they had the opportunity to meet who’s behind the Facebook and Twitter community. For us, this was the most useful thing – cooperation. Many are on the way to building a joint campaign in 2018.”
‘Facing a Disinformation Apocalypse’
David Keyes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign-media spokesman, discussed at length the powers of persuasion in communicating Israel’s messages in a nearly impossible messaging environment. “We are facing a ‘disinformation apocalypse’ unlike anything we have ever seen,” he stated.
Keyes suggested that the group focus on empathy when communicating, noting that single stories have proven themselves to be more effective than communicating larger numbers and trends when attempting to counter lies and convince an audience of Israel’s merits.
“Anytime you can take an abstract idea and boil it down into a story, you can have fantastic results,” he said. “Better than explaining that 1,000 people were killed in a terror attack . . . it would be much more powerful if you can tell a single story. If you find a salient story, that is a gold mine.”
He explained that the prime minister has adopted these principles, and taken to video and social media, often bypassing traditional media to communicate his messages.
“Traditional media is dying a slow and painful death,” Keyes asserted, noting that now Netanyahu’s social-media channels and videos can “get tens of millions of views on any given day.”
“Short-form video is changing the world,” said Keyes. “If it is provocative, people will share it.”
Netanyahu a ‘Phenomenal Communicator’
Keyes told JNS that “the prime minister keenly understands the power of social media and new technology to get Israel’s message out,” while noting that Netanyahu is a “phenomenal communicator.”
“For decades, he has been telling the truth about Israel in a way that few other people have—maybe in a way that no one else has,” said Keyes.
Yet he noted to the group that the ability of the Prime Minister Office to tell the story of Israel is not as powerful as the collective “fusion of people with organic followings.”
“United with Israel (UWI) was thrilled to participate in what was such an inspiring and informative gathering and is proud to be a part of such a passionate and driven network of warriors fighting to spread the truth about Israel,” said Elisheva Aarons, UWI’s head of digital media. “It’s a true privilege to join such an incredible network and we feel more motivated and driven to work even harder to show the world the real Israel.”