Israel has reportedly adopted a hateful media propaganda strategy by projecting pro-Israel graphic advertisements into children’s video games as it deepens its ground offensive in Gaza, where airstrikes have so far killed more than 8,000 people, including more than 3,000 children. More Palestinians have been killed.
This unorthodox strategy has raised concerns as young players are exposed to such content.
Maria Julia Cassis, a mother from North London, reported that her 6-year-old son encountered an annoying ad while playing a puzzle game on his Android phone.
The ad depicts distressed Israeli families and Hamas gunmen, accompanied by a message from the Israeli Foreign Ministry saying, “We will ensure that those who harm us pay a heavy price.” Cassis immediately removed the game because her son found its content extremely disturbing.
This incident is not isolated, as Reuters has identified at least five such cases across Europe where players, including many children, were exposed to missile attacks, explosions and masked attackers bearing pro-Israel advertisements. These advertisements even infiltrated popular games such as “Angry Birds” developed by Rovio, causing inconvenience to players and raising parents’ concerns.
“Angry Birds” developer Rovio said these ads with disturbing content had accidentally entered their game and were being blocked manually. The company declined to say which of its advertising partners was responsible for these ads.
David Saranga, head of digital at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, acknowledged that the video in question was a government-sponsored advertisement. However, he claimed that he did not know how it ended up in different games.
The video is part of a larger advocacy campaign by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which has allocated $1.5 million for online ads since the Gaza war began following the Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7. Saranga emphasized the graphic nature of the campaign, which aims to raise global awareness of 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 by declining to be involved in the ad placement.
According to Saranga, the Israeli Foreign Ministry has paid advertising firms such as Taboola, Outbrain, Google and X (formerly Twitter). Nevertheless, both Taboola and Outbrain distanced themselves from game advertisements. Reuters found no evidence of a comparable Palestinian digital advertising campaign, except for some Arabic-language videos from Palestine TV.
This controversial approach has raised ethical and legal concerns, particularly regarding the age of audiences exposed to such graphic material. While advertising regulations vary across countries, authorities generally advocate responsibly targeting ads away from people under the age of 18.
In Britain, where Maria Julia Cassis and her son live, the Advertising Standards Authority monitors advertising campaigns, emphasizing the need to protect children from promotions containing graphic content.