THE BLOG
08/26/2014 11:59 am ET Updated Oct 26, 2014

Re-Examining the Role of Social Media During the Gaza Conflict

SAID KHATIB via Getty Images

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece are solely the author's and are not affiliated with any university or institution of education.

Whether I'm up early preparing my lunch for the day or studying for classes, the first part of my morning always involves coffee and a laptop. For the next ten minutes, I browse national news sources: CNN, New York Times, NBC. Occasionally BBC. I read about Israel's claims to defending themselves, how their troops are in danger from Hamas' rockets and how Hamas' use of civilians as human shields is the reason for the high death toll.

Then I switch over to social media platforms that shout the opposite. These sites, previously filled with selfies and check-ins, now serve a greater purpose. Tweets describe Israel's sickening attacks on a hospital for the disabled, on a U.N. facility, on the Al-Jazeera office. Facebook statuses of Israelis state that the crude rockets they are being hit with are much less dangerous than the weapons their own army is using to kill hundreds in Gaza. And while the current cease-fire yields some peace, it cannot undo the casualties that multiple posts and pictures describe, now approximately 1875 Palestinians and 67 Israelis.

The inconsistency in the information is alarming, and has revealed a positive outcome of social media. No longer are journalists the unique ones receiving and sharing information through paper and ink. Millions of people are now able to reveal news, share footage and tell stories. And when you see thousands of people from a multitude of ethnic and religious backgrounds freely posting "#SupportGaza" and hear about the efforts of the Israeli government to pay their teens to counter such support, you know something is lacking in American media's reporting of the issues. "Refrain from being biased in your reporting. Be neutral and state facts from both parties involved." This fundamental lesson has been drilled into my head by every journalism professor I've come across, and its absence in U.S. media is astonishing. If this ethical rule were present, the U.S. would not be the only country to vote against the UN's call to investigation of the crimes in Palestine, with 29 countries voting for it. Society would not be pressuring celebrities such as Dwight Howard to delete their pro-Gaza statements, and condemning celebrities such as Mark Ruffalo, Selena Gomez, John Cusack and more for doing so.

It is not only the one-sided stories that bias reader judgments, but also questionable decisions made by U.S. media outlets that display their prejudices towards reporting the truth, such as the removal of journalists. NBC executives took correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin out of Gaza after his accurate coverage of the killing of four Palestinian boys on a Gaza beach on July 16. Though the network claimed this was for his safety, the claim was difficult to believe as they sent in a new less-experienced correspondent the next day to cover the continuing Israeli assault. Additionally at CNN, reporter Diana Magnay was pulled out of Israel for tweeting that the Israelis who were viewing and cheering as bombs struck Gaza were "scum." Though her word choice was inappropriate, it's appalling to think that this was the issue stimulated here and not that of people cheering when innocent civilians are being murdered. And the common factor between the two journalists? They both published information that put Israeli in a negative light, despite stating the truth.

The issue isn't false reporting on the part of American media; however, when news outlets refuse to share both sides of the story, we are failing as journalists. The integrity of our profession is deteriorating in our inability to objectively notify the public. We are supposed to give them information that will aid them in reaching their own conclusions, not make those decisions for them.

In return, it is each individual's responsibility to review the accuracy of the news they are exposed to. With information being shared so widely and quickly on both social media and news outlets, it is easy for mistakes to occur. And if you only believe what is spoon-fed to you through the Internet, television, newspaper, etc., you risk the danger of becoming misled into believing fabrications. It's imperative to know the facts and come to your own conclusions based on them.

I am not on the side of Hamas, nor am I on the side of Israel. I am on the side of humanity. I am on the side of the innocent being killed, their rights being taken away from them. I am on the side of truth. As the inscription written boldly on the main building of my university says: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."