Gaza and the Future of Information Warfare

Article by P. W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking: “The Israel-Hamas war began in the early hours of Saturday, October 7, when Hamas militants and their affiliates stole over the Gazan-Israeli border by tunnel, truck, and hang glider, killed 1,200 people, and abducted over 200 more. Within minutes, graphic imagery and bombastic propaganda began to flood social media platforms. Each shocking video or post from the ground drew new pairs of eyes, sparked horrified reactions around the world, and created demand for more. A second front in the war had been opened online, transforming physical battles covering a few square miles into a globe-spanning information conflict.

In the days that followed, Israel launched its own bloody retaliation against Hamas; its bombardment of cities in the Gaza Strip killed more than 10,000 Palestinians in the first month. With a ground invasion in late October, Israeli forces began to take control of Gazan territory. The virtual battle lines, meanwhile, only became more firmly entrenched. Digital partisans clashed across Facebook, Instagram, X, TikTok, YouTube, Telegram, and other social media platforms, each side battling to be the only one heard and believed, unshakably committed to the righteousness of its own cause.

The physical and digital battlefields are now merged. In modern war, smartphones and cameras transmit accounts of nearly every military action across the global information space. The debates they spur, in turn, affect the real world. They shape public opinion, provide vast amounts of intelligence to actors around the world, and even influence diplomatic and military operational decisions at both the strategic and tactical levels. In our 2018 book, we dubbed this phenomenon “LikeWar,” defined as a political and military competition for command of attention. If cyberwar is the hacking of online networks, LikeWar is the hacking of the people on them, using their likes and shares to make a preferred narrative go viral…(More)”.

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