When Dan Peguine came up with the idea for QassamCount on December 21, he was fairly clear about what was going to come next.
“I knew that was going to happen – it was created with that in mind,” he says, speaking to The Journal.
He is not, of course, referring to the ongoing battle between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which began a week later. The plan he had in mind was to stimulate conversation and debate on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the medium of the world’s most pervasive social networking platforms.
As QassamCount spreads online with a disregard for borders that only Facebook allows—gaining followers, soliciting angry responses and spawning copycat counter-applications—one has to accept that he’s succeeded.
Originally created as a Twitter feed, QassamCount was adapted as a Facebook application by Mr Peguine once the conflict began. Based on an idea first used during the US election campaign—"donating" your Facebook status to an issue, and thereby publicising it amongst your Facebook friends—QassamCount automatically relates news of a rocket strike by Hamas terrorists against Israeli targets as and when they hit.
“I wanted to bring information to the fore that some people would otherwise ignore,” says Mr Peguine, a French-Israeli web entrepreneur.
“It’s been a success – now people ask me about the conflict, about what a Qassam is... the fact that the information comes from friends lends it credibility for people.
“It has become a genuine source of information. In the same way that people check the news, some people now also check their Facebook feed for updates.”
While Mr Peguine is reluctant to qualify his creation as "citizen journalism"—“you can’t have everyone being journalists”—he nonetheless has a compelling vision of how the principle could be applied more widely: “Imagine if someone on the ground in Darfur had a Twitter feed or a Facebook profile?”