Benayahu: Internet helped Arab uprisings
Photo: Avi Moalem
IDF Spokesman Avi Benayahu said Tuesday that the army is currently in the process of enlisting "new media fighters".
Benayahu told a panel on the subject of "the digital medium as strategic weapon" that the army was searching for "little hackers who were born and raised online".
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"We screen them with special care and train them to serve the state," the spokesman told the panel, which was part of the Herzliya Conference.
He added that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was personally supporting the venture and that he had supplied a budget of NIS 6 million ($1.63 million) for the enlistment of 120 soldiers.
Benayahu said the internet had had a significant effect on recent uprisings in Arab nations such as Tunisia and Egypt. "We cannot but be impressed at how Western technology harms regimes at the other end of the spectrum, such as Iran, or at how one cell phone camera can harm a regime more than any intelligence agency's operations," he said.
Egypt, however, "still does not understand the power that is being given to the public, while slowly being taken away from its leader".
The spokesman said he also plans to establish blogs for other spokesmen and commanders as a PR tool. "We are at this front and proceeding slowly," he said, and recommended that the government appoint a "new media minister".
"The army is too involved with internal public relations. The army must not fill a space left by the state – it should be taking care of this."
Aliza, a lone soldier from the US, explained about the new unit at the IDF Spokesperson's Office. "We began to work with new media during Operation Cast Lead. Bloggers are very important and very influential," she said.
"This is about the democratization of information, and about the fact that you cannot stuff information down people's throats but you can make it more palatable."
Aliza said the office's YouTube channel is currently its most successful venture. "Photos catch the eye and constitute visual proof that is better than words," she said, adding that IDF footage from the flotilla raid became the most-watched videos online and affected "media reports in the world as well as online debates".
However, Aliza admitted, "we are still learning and we have a long way to go".
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