Submitted by Abraham Greenhouse on Thu, 08/15/2013 – 19:21
The Electronic Intifada
Following Israeli media reports on a “covert” government program to pay students for spreading pro-Israel messages on social media, the program director Daniel Seaman’s own social media posts became the subject of unwanted scrutiny—and may end up costing him his job.
His offensive postings have also created a diplomatic incident between Israel and Japan.
As Ali Abunimah reported for the Electronic Intifada on Tuesday, the program itself, which is coordinated through student unions at Israel’s seven universities and structured in a “semi-military” fashion, is not entirely new.
The Electronic Intifada has previously reported on other versions of the program, including an effort run in partnership with the National Union of Israeli Students, in which participants would be awarded stipends of up to $2,000.
At the time, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jillian C. York compared the program to similar efforts by China, Syria, Bahrain, and Russia. “When a state — be it Bahrain, Israel, Syria or China – needs to stoop to the level of paying citizens to fight its public relations wars, it has already lost,” York wrote.
Attempt to conceal ‘covert’ program leads to exposure
The newest iteration of the program apparently came to the attention of the Israeli media as the result of a letter written by program director Daniel Seaman, who works out of the prime minister’s office, to Israel’s public tender committee. In the letter, Seaman, a former head of the Government Press Office, sought to exempt the initiative from the government’s standard public tender process as a means of concealing the astroturfing nature of the program.
According to the Times of Israel, Seaman explained that “the project requires the state’s role to be under the radar, making it appear as if the students are working independently under the auspices of the students’ union.” The article went on to explain that although the “advocacy units” will be convended under the auspices of Israel’s student unions, “they will take their orders from the Prime Minister’s Office advocacy apparatus”.
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