The Internet has opened a new front for anti-Semitic and Islamic terror groups to recruit members, coordinate activities and propagate misinformation. To combat these efforts, online activists around the world have rallied together to form the Jewish Internet Defense Force.
JIDF members scour online social media in search of anti-Semitic and jihadist content that violates host sites’ Terms of Service contracts. According to JIDF founder, David Appletree, his organization has helped take down thousands of anti-Semitic and jihadist channels and videos on YouTube, and has helped remove hundreds of anti-Semitic and jihadist groups, with hundreds of thousands of followers, on Facebook, by reporting TOS violations.
“Anti-Semitic and Islamic terrorist websites and forums are extremely prolific and viral online,” Appletree explained. “They pose real world threats, and these ideas eventually turn into action. Attacks against the Holocaust museum in D.C. and Elie Wiesel were inspired or connected with online activities. We have also seen jihadists using the Internet, including Facebook and YouTube, to recruit and train members.”
Appletree said there is a “moral and ethical obligation” to combat these groups on-line, and it simply calls on webhosts to enforce their own rules.
Appletree said there is a “moral and ethical obligation” to combat these groups on-line. Through its strategy, the JIDF calls on webhosts to enforce their own rules.
When the JIDF discovers anti-Semitic or jihadist material online, the organization sends out an “action alert” to its members, who then contact the webhost. This past week, for example, the JIDF discovered a Facebook event titled, “International Punch a Jew in the Face Day”; nearly 400 members confirmed their participation.
“In a matter of hours, JIDF activists were successful in shutting it down,” Appletree said.
The JIDF manages its own website. It currently has hundreds of thousands of combined fans, members and supporters through various JIDF online forums. “This includes over 50,000 followers on Twitter and over 15,000 fans on our Facebook page, and more than 85,000 members in our Facebook group. We have many other specific groups, pages and forums, as well,” Appletree added.
The organization’s reach is international in scope. Being a grass-roots initiative, the JIDF is able to act with speed and agility, and often coordinates with other organizations and initiatives. Its collaborative “Tweet4Shalit” campaign, last August, succeeded in making captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit a trending topic on Twitter. The JIDF has generated one of the largest pro-Israel presences online, and helps lead online efforts against Holocaust denial.
“We’re cutting edge in that we know how to use all the tools in the online shed, effectively,” Appletree said.
With its approach, the JIDF is outspoken on political issues. “For example, we’re one of the few Jewish organizations who are not afraid to call Abbas the Holocaust-denying terrorist that he is,” Appletree pointed out; Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, wrote his doctoral dissertation, later published as the book, “The Other Side: The Secret Relations Between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement,” based on Holocaust denial.
“We’re not afraid to label Fatah an Islamic terrorist organization, either,” Appletree continued; Fatah is part of the PLO, which is responsible for numerous terrorist attacks against Israel, as well as international airline hijackings.
“The JIDF is also against all land concessions and the creation of an Islamic terrorist state inside Israel. We’re pro-settler, so we’re obviously against this [settlement] ‘freeze,’ as well,” he added.
The JIDF came together over an eight-year process, with five major turning points: the start of the second Intifada in September 2000; the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks; the disengagement from Gaza in August 2005; the Second Lebanon War in July 2006; and the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva massacre in March 2008. The organization began through email campaigns, then progressed onto social media sites like MySpace, and then onto Facebook and Twitter. The JIDF came into official fruition in May 2008.
“The massacre at Mercaz HaRav yeshiva in Israel made us realize the need for more direct action,” Appletree recalled.
“We became a more visible entity as the result of the event but, ultimately, it was the Facebook groups which subsequently sprouted to honor the perpetrator of the massacre that prompted us to be more brazen. The use of Facebook and other social media to blatantly praise acts of terrorism and promote anti-Semitism demanded an equally blatant response.”
Fundraising presents the main challenge to the JIDF’s efforts, Appletree noted. “[W]e’re trying to offer our experience and expertise to others who could benefit greatly and who might be able to help us, in turn. We’re also creating opportunities for others to sponsor our work through ads,” he said.
By Michael C. Duke, Jewish Herald-Voice
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