Israel has allegedly employed a disgusting media propaganda strategy by introducing graphic pro-Israel advertisements into children’s video games as it deepens its ground invasion in Gaza, where over 8,000 Palestinians including more than 3,000 children have so far been killed in air raids.
This unconventional tactic has raised concerns as such content is exposed to young players.
Maria Julia Cassis, a mom from northern London, reported that her 6-year-old son encountered a disturbing advertisement while playing a puzzle game on his Android phone.
The advertisement depicted distressed Israeli families and Hamas gunmen, along with a message from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating, “WE WILL MAKE SURE THAT THOSE WHO HARM US PAY A HEAVY PRICE.” Cassis promptly removed the game as her son found the content deeply unsettling.
This incident is not isolated, as Reuters has identified at least five such cases across Europe, where players, including many children, were confronted with similar pro-Israel ads featuring missile attacks, explosions, and masked attackers. These advertisements even infiltrated popular games like “Angry Birds,” developed by Rovio, leading to player discomfort and parental concerns.
Rovio, the developer of “Angry Birds,” said that these ads with disturbing content had mistakenly made their way into their game and were being manually blocked. The company declined to specify which of its advertising partners was responsible for these ads.
The head of Digital at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, David Saranga, acknowledged that the video in question was a government-sponsored commercial. However, he claimed not to know how it ended up in various games.
This video is part of a larger advocacy campaign by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which has allocated $1.5 million for online advertisements since the Gaza War began following Hamas’s attack on southern Israel on October 7th. Saranga emphasised the graphic nature of the campaign, aiming to raise global awareness about the situation in Israel.
Reuters attempted to identify the source of these advertisements by contacting 43 advertising companies listed as “third-party data partners” on Rovio’s website. However, only 12 of these partners, including Amazon, Index Exchange, and Pinterest, responded, denying involvement in the advertisement’s placement.
According to Saranga, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made payments to advertising firms such as Taboola, Outbrain, Google, and X (formerly Twitter). Yet, both Taboola and Outbrain disassociated themselves from the game advertisements. Reuters found no evidence of a comparable Palestinian digital advertising campaign, except for some Arabic-language videos by Palestine TV.
This controversial approach has raised ethical and legal concerns, particularly regarding the age of the audience exposed to such graphic content. While advertising regulations vary across nations, authorities generally advocate for responsible targeting of ads away from under-18s.
In Britain, where Maria Julia Cassis and her son reside, the Advertising Standards Authority monitors advertising campaigns, emphasising the need to protect children from promotions featuring graphic content.