It’s the kind of thing one expects to see in a Cyberpunk novel (above article can be found here).
A website called Give Israel Your United Support (GIYUS) has, since 2006, provided its members with a piece of software (“megaphone”) that allows them to fill online polls with whichever response the website’s controllers feels would be best in Israel’s interest. It also gives them an alert whenever they find a website that they think is critical of Israel, so that GIYUS members can fill it with spam.
They have such a solid track record at using this approach that the Israeli Foreign Ministry is now urging people to use the software and support Israel’s actions all over cyberspace.
A collection of screen captures about this can be found on my Facebook page here.
There are many reasons why this is a bad thing. The first is that it is anti-democratic, and against free speech. If someone puts a poll or discussion topic on their site they are doing it because they wish to sample what their readers think and let their readers express their opinion, not because they want fanatics to use it as yet another way of broadcasting their own, narrow message.
Secondly, it is blind, unthinking, knee-jerk support, and that is always bad, regardless of what the support is about. Mindlessly throwing your weight behind any cause is a stupid thing to do. I’m all for freedom of speech but that’s not what this is. In fact this is the opposite of that. This is an attempt to prevent free speech by clogging up polls with thoughtless spam, and it is this thoughtlessness that is most damaging.
Lastly, it promotes racism. Unfair actions like these are targeted, aggressive attempts to manipulate and intimidate. They cause people to regard those conducting the attack in a negative light. Since these attacks from GIYUS are always about supporting Israel people start to generalise and blame Jews, and all Jews, everywhere, for the attacks.
All this does is promote anti-semitism.
Sadly it doesn’t stop there. In the wake of Israel’s massacre of the aid workers on the flotilla GIYUS, and possibly other groups as well, have dispatched their agents all over the Internet. This time they are not just rigging online polls. They are attempting to actively change the opinion of the Internet.
I wish I was joking.
So far I have confirmed through personal observation that they are attacking 4chan, YouTube and Facebook. I have also heard that they are targeting Digg, Reddit, Encyclopedia Dramatica and Twitter.
What form does the attack take? Well that’s simple. It goes a little something like this:
1. People download Megaphone from GIYUS.
2. A GIYUS member sees a discussion, a video, an article or anything else that is critical of Israel, and sends out a message to everyone who has Megaphone.
3. A flock of GIYUS members breaks off from the main herd and rushes over to spam up the comments or discussion section with mindless Israeli propaganda.
Those of you who are active on any discussion or image boards have probably encountered them.
Debating with these people is like beating a fish with a stick: sure it takes a long time, but the outcome is never in doubt. They are so badly educated on the topics at hand that all they do is fill the discussion with rehashed, irrelevant accusations, or copypasting from unreliable sources.
This crap would be annoying enough if it was just an isolated group. But now that Israel’s Foreign Ministry has given them its blessing things have started to snowball. Some estimates put the cyberschmuck army at 20 000 strong!