Hoax news or fake news of the war between Hamas and Israel flooded social media, much faster than the Qassam missiles used by Hamas, and without a deterrent as sophisticated as Israel’s Iron Dome.
Photos and video excerpts captioned “a number of Hamas gunmen entered an Israeli music festival on paragliders and launched a massive attack that claimed many lives” circulated widely on the X platform – formerly known as Twitter. Millions of people watched the short video, which was later proven to be a video of Egyptian paratroopers passing over the Egyptian Military Academy in Cairo.
There is also a short news item with a logo bearing the image of the White House, which states that United States (US) President Joe Biden has provided $8 billion in military aid to Israel. Biden did offer “any necessary support” to Israel, including sending the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford and several destroyers to the Middle East, but did not provide as much military aid. The photo used in this story is a photo of Biden approving $400 million in aid for Ukraine last July.
Smoke rises after an Israeli attack on the port of Gaza City, in Gaza, October 10, 2023. (Photo: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)
Hoaxes Intertwined with Identity Politics and Religion
According to a social media expert at the University of Indonesia, Dr. Kurniawan said, misinformation and disinformation during war is nothing new. However, the hoax news circulating regarding the war between Hamas and Israel is currently very dangerous, because it touches on sensitive matters such as identity politics and religion.
“Actually, fake news during war is nothing new because in the 31st century BC, it already happened in the Roman Empire, so there is a jargon – when war occurs, the truth is the first victim,” he said opening an interview with VOA.
According to him, there are three ways that make the production of fake news in the Hamas-Israel war so massive.
Dr. Firman Kurniawan, social media expert at the University of Indonesia. (Photo: Private Dock)
“First, society is in an information imbalance, namely when a major event occurs and society really wants to know what really happened. Second, when those involved in the war – in this case Hamas and Israel – both want public support. “Even though their actions are disguised as a humanitarian mission, for example, they still need public approval that these actions are true for humanity,” he said.
“Third, when everyone can produce and distribute information. Today these three points meet so that when one party wants support, information is produced that can emotionally encourage support,” explained this digital communications expert.
Media observer and former senior Kompas journalist, Satrio Arismunandar, has the same view, that fake news which is spreading rapidly like mushrooms in the rainy season, is not a new phenomenon.
Palestinians see the destruction of a house after an attack in the midst of the conflict with Israel in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, October 12, 2023. (Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
“It’s just that now there are various media devices and sophisticated information technology, it has become easier. Israel and Hamas certainly have some kind of public relations or propaganda apparatus, but what is currently popular are those who take their own initiative, who cannot be controlled because it touches their emotions… This is different from the time of the Ukraine-Russia war, which did not really touch the Indonesian people. “But it’s different when we talk about Palestine or Bosnia, which immediately arouse the emotions of our people,” he said.
Ironically, when fake news is swallowed whole, the result is not only confusion and fear, but also wrong decision making, which in an atmosphere of war is very risky.
Thadeo Arlo, an Indonesian student who has studied in Israel for four years and is now living in Tel Aviv. (Photo: Private Dock)
This was felt by Thadeo Arlo, an Indonesian student who stayed in Tel Aviv because the situation was still not conducive to leaving the Israeli capital. In the current conflict situation, Deo makes decisions based on the information he receives. According to him, it is too risky when the information obtained turns out to be fake news.
“What is certain is that I will never open TikTok. I only want to receive information from organizations that are clear, for example campuses or the government. “I also don’t look at Instagram or Telegram because many of them are inaccurate,” he said.
Platform X Dibanjiri Fake News
X is said to be the social media platform where there are the most misleading claims and news excerpts and doctored images or photos related to the Hamas-Israel war. Citing statements from several social media researchers, the Reuters news agency reported that one of the reasons was because Elon Musk, the current owner of , hashtags and other information about an event.
Workers light up the “X” above the headquarters of the company, formerly known as Twitter, in San Francisco, on July 28, 2023. (Photo: AP)
Ruslan Trad, resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, told Reuters that without the tools, researchers would now have to analyze thousands of links manually.
Musk also made X users have to pay to verify their accounts and allowed certain users to earn a portion of ad sales on a revenue-sharing basis with to get followers.
In a statement on
Tips for Identifying Fake News in Times of Conflict
Even though he has repeatedly expressed tips for identifying fake news, Dr. Firman Kurniawan once again advised social media users to “first, realize that during war, all parties want support for themselves which is achieved by producing information to corner other parties. In achieving that goal, they do not pay attention to the truth of the information. There is a tendency to falsify information in times of war.”
“Secondly, we need to vary our sources of information, so it’s not just from one direction, but we need to check facts. Today, tools for fact checking are widely available and free, so we know when information A was produced and in what context. Third, we need to study the techniques of those who produce fake news. For example by riding emotional events, utilizing algorithms, production using deep fakes and so on. This continues to develop. But when we know, we get used to not putting information as something that is immediately believed ,” he explained.
What is important to note, Firman added, is that social media platform managers clearly face a challenge between moderating content so that it is not filled with fake news or allowing information to spread in real time, as it is, which means it has the potential to expand fake news.
European Union Surati Musk
The European Union on Tuesday (10/10) issued a warning to Elon Musk for allegedly allowing widespread disinformation about Hamas attacks on Israel, including fake news and “doctored old images” on X.
The commissioner in charge of the issue, Thierry Breton, sent a letter to Musk, urging him to provide a “swift, accurate and complete response” to the request to contact Europol and the relevant law enforcement agencies” within 24 hours of receipt of the letter.
The letter was delivered less than two months after the European Union introduced new legal rules governing content on social media, in accordance with the Digital Services Act.
If Musk does not comply with what is requested then he could face a fine of six percent of his revenue at X, or risk a complete shutdown across the European Union. It is not yet known whether Musk will fulfill this request or not. (em/ah)