Misinformation about Israel and Hamas is spreading on social media

As one of the largest invasions in 50 years unfolded on the streets, sea and skies over Israel, misinformation about the assault proliferated on social media.

In one instance, a widely circulated video of an Israeli airstrike was said to show a retaliation to Saturday’s surprise attack by Palestinian group Hamas, which has left hundreds dead.

“BREAKING: Israeli Air Force is striking terror targets in Gaza,” read the caption of the video, which was shared on Facebook and social media platform X. But the video was from airstrikes that happened in May, Reuters reported.

In another, numerous users on X and TikTok shared a video that showed two jets being towed by ground. Some users claimed it showed Israeli Defense forces evacuating air bases near Gaza. One user said it showed Hamas forces towing Israeli jets.

That video, however, was published last month, appearing on YouTube on Sept. 19, according to Reuters. The reposted version of the video had been viewed hundreds of thousands of times by Saturday afternoon.

Many of the misleadingly labeled videos were shared by verified users on X, who are eligible for monetization of their content.

Meanwhile, both fighting parties turned to social media and tech platforms to engage in information warfare.

In dozens of posts on X, TikTok and Instagram, Israel’s official social media accounts blasted Hamas and repeatedly stated, “We are at war.” In one video posted to Instagram and X, Israel compared Hamas to ISIS.

“Same ideology, different names,” text placed over a video of an alleged kidnapping said.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, has been categorized by the U.S. and the European Union as a militant terrorist group, and many social media companies, including the less tightly moderated X, have banned Hamas-affiliated accounts and politicians. 

The group instead has turned primarily to the messaging platform Telegram to distribute its content and saw colossal follower growth on Saturday. 

In the channel, Hamas posted polished promotional videos as well as on-the-ground footage from Saturday’s violence. Others have since reposted the videos to other social media platforms.

Among the footage circulating Saturday were videos of Israeli civilian hostages taken into Gaza. Others purport to show Hamas opening fire at Israeli attendees of a music festival.

“The images and videos that Hamas has released of innocent civilians are objectively horrifying. And while they may have released these videos in hopes of rallying other Palestinians to launch attacks, it’s more likely to draw the international community to Israel’s side,” said Jonathan Lord, senior fellow and director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, a think tank in Washington.

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