“Hi, Roger, I’m working for an Israel production and events agency. We love your music and especially sympathize with your stance for a peaceful world. We would love hosting you for another concert here next year, for a 10 years anniversary to your previous concert. Our agency has managed to reserve a unique space near the border which used to be a peaceful Palestinian village. We have already coordinated the removal of the surrounding olive trees to expand the venue so everyone can enjoy! The audience will be mixed, with both Palestinians from their former village and current Israeli residents, in order to represent a peaceful society. Is it doable?”
- Dear Hamas, Psychological warfare - you’re doing it wrong
- For a cyber superpower, Israel is surprisingly vulnerable to hackers
- Social media companies step up efforts to combat militant propaganda
This seemingly innocent invitation was posted on the Facebook page of Roger Waters – one of the most vocal critics of Israel’s policies in the territories and known for his constant outbursts against any artist who visits or plans to visit Israel. Responses, of course, were quick to arrive. “Israel is a terrorist!” said one surfer. And when another innocently wrote that his favorite album was “The Wall,” the inviter immediately responded, “I agree. My favorite song from this album is ‘Stairways to Heaven’ [sic]. From that moment onwards, I knew exactly how music should sound. They are THE BEST !!!” Another responder rushed to write, “Stupid [racial epithet]! Stairways to Heaven is by Led Zeppelin. You people are pure evil. A country of apartheid Zionist pigs,” adding for good measure “Fuckers !!!!!!!!”
The person behind the invitation is Dafni Gafni, an Internet troll in the best sense of the word. She has been operating one of the funniest Web pages of recent months. Waters is only one of several targets of her Facebook page, called “Dafni Gafni asks.” Other targets have included the Knesset, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Apple and even the BDS movement, which was asked about a “BDS sex toy” Gafni had bought her boyfriend for his birthday – she’d promised not to untie him unless he said the “safe word,” but he must have forgotten it because he’d been crying and screaming for the past three hours, she wrote.
She also asked the Israel Electric Corporation about the grandfather who had hooked up to a power pole in order to activate his dialysis machine during a prolonged power outage. “The problem is that when we activate the power, our neighbors lose it – and vice versa. How long would it take to repair this? P.S. If you don’t fix it, we’ll switch to your competitors.” Despite this surreal scenario, the power company replied, “Hi, the matter is under investigation. Thanks for your inquiry.”
Gafni, who’ll only admit that this isn’t her – or his, or their – real name, didn’t even know she had become a troll. “That wasn’t the plan,” she told Haaretz in a Facebook chat. “It started as something that was meant to amuse a group of friends. I started three months ago, and it all took off rather quickly. It seems that I happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Her Facebook page has indeed grown to an impressive size, with nearly 65,000 followers waiting for her next wind-up, and responding with thousands of likes within an hour.
She doesn’t really provide an answer when asked how to become a troll. “I thought of opening a page in which I asked different forums some provocative questions, trying to elicit some kind of truth that people try to hide, confronting them with other people in that forum to see how a discussion develops. I didn’t plan on it reaching this magnitude. I didn’t know it was called trolling; I only found this out in retrospect.”
When asked who her perfect victim was, she cites the ex-Pink Floyd singer Waters, “since the day after I posted my question to him, Facebook blocked my access for nearly a week. So I think it touched a nerve with someone – and that was the intention to begin with.”
But how do they fall for it? Greenpeace, for example: Asking how to clear a rainforest in order to establish a fur-processing plant in Ecuador – that was incredible.
“Yes, Greenpeace was a success – I thought of the most absurd question with the largest number of illogical elements that could still be asked with plausible innocence, and it worked. The truth is, it always works. You have to think of a specific question and word it so that anyone reading it enters the loop and doesn’t understand what’s really happening.”
Gafni admits, though, that not every trolling attempt is an instant success. “Sometimes people catch on and sometimes no one responds. When that happens, I search for a similar forum and pose the same question there. If I think the question is a good one, it must be asked either here [Facebook] or on another forum. There’s always someone who’ll bite and cause a chain reaction.”
She doesn’t linger to see how far she can reach, however: her style is more hit-and-run. After she has managed to inflame responders and collect a few good comments, she disappears. “I pose the question on my page, but people don’t like reading too much – at some point they get bored. In order to make it interesting and funny, I disappear as soon as I get what I want. I delete the whole post so nothing is left of it.”