The Israeli Embassy in the US is a community contributor to Buzzfeed, publishing a piece on the site headlined “Threats Facing Israel, Explained In One (sort Of Terrifying) Map“.
The map presents what could charitably be described as a very one sided view of the Israel Palestine conflict, referring to the West Bank as having a “culture of conflict” and glossing over the continued illegal occupations in the area. “Some may say the map is alarmist,” the embassy writes. “Undeniably, the map is our geopolitical reality, and we will be vigilant in protecting our people and our borders.”
The piece is the latest example of the Iraeli state’s impressive online PR operation. During the conflict in Gaza late last year, the IDF, Israel’s army, took to Twitter sharing infographics about terror attacks on civilians and tweeting threats to “Hamas operatives”. Meanwhile, the country’s footsoldiers were allowed to use Instagram on deployment, as an official account collated the best pictures.
But while the Buzzfeed post isn’t too unexpected for Israel, it’s more problematic for the site itself. Unlike Instagram and Twitter, Buzzfeed produces editorial itself; and while the site allows “community contributors” to make posts with little oversight, to many users those pieces are indistinguishable from actual Buzzfeed content. Indeed, some of them are promoted to the front page by the site’s editors, as “12 People Who Stuck Their Tongues Out Better Than Miley” was this morning. As a result, there’s a risk that it will look like Buzzfeed endorses the message, and that’s certainly what a fair few of the site’s commenters seem to think.
Of course, there’s another risk for the site: famously, its business model is based around creating sponsored content which blends seamlessly in with actual editorial. In more traditional media, the Israeli embassy would have had to pay for an advert to get their message across. But by offering the chance to post for free, are Buzzfeed undercutting themselves?