Bombings and airstrikes blasted targets across Israel and Gaza following Hamas’ attacks on Israel on Saturday and Israeli counterattacks. At the same time, disinformation about the conflict exploded across the internet with a force that surprised analysts.
Alex Mahadevan is director of the digital literacy non-profit organization MediaWise.
“This is worse than before or after the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. It is worse than the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic or the vaccination rollout. “Honestly, this is the most intense misinformation I’ve seen spread on social media as far as I can remember,” he said.
Among the posts going viral on platforms like TikTok and The video was viewed nearly one million times. In fact, the posts and videos are lies.
Another video shows children locked up and claims they are Israeli citizens kidnapped by Hamas. However, according to the watchdog, the video was uploaded on TikTok days before the Hamas attack on Saturday.
There are also fake posts featuring BBC journalists. The British broadcast media stated that there was no correspondent named Verona Mark. In fact, there is no talk show called American Inside.
X then blocked the @Verona_Mark account for violating platform rules.
In active conflict zones, journalists cannot always access the worst-affected areas, creating an information vacuum. That void is often filled by disinformation.
Sherif Mansour is the Middle East and North Africa program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists.
“This means a lot of misinformation, online propaganda can undermine efforts to provide accurate and timely information that the public and millions of people around the world need,” he said.
Social media can help journalists broadcast the truth, but it also allows fake news to flourish. Some media experts have pointed to changes at X, formerly Twitter, including employee reductions, resulting in the spread of disinformation.
MediaWise Director Mahadevan said, “I think, out of habit, many journalists like me and people in general are busy using X – previously Twitter – to find out what is happening with the Israel-Hamas war. Unfortunately, in the new X, the entire trust and security team has been eliminated. So, the number of staff is no longer the same as we engage in eliminating disinformation and misinformation; and in moderating violent content and hateful behavior.”
The European Union last Tuesday reminded X’s owner, Elon Musk, and social media platforms of their legal requirements not to share such content. Musk replied via X, that the platform is transparent. He asked the European Union to create a list of alleged violations.
Meanwhile, amidst the abundance of disinformation regarding the conflict in Central Tumr, journalists must sort fact from fiction to ensure audiences have access to credible news. (ka/lt)