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Israel-Palestinian war: Sorting fact from fiction flooding social media

A flood of videos and photos purporting to show the conflict have filled social media

Israel-Palestinian war: Sorting fact from fiction flooding social media
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

The video of a young boy in a black T-shirt apparently lying in a pool of blood on the ground, with men in Jewish skull caps and in green military uniforms gathered around him, has raked about 2 million times on X, formerly known as Twitter. The fact is: it’s a BTS shot from a Palestinian short film, Empty Place

Since news broke last Saturday that the Palestinian armed group Hamas had breached the border fence, massacring hundreds of civilians in southern Israel, videos began emerging on social media. As more videos surface, it’s difficult for people from around the world to sort fact from fiction.

While plenty of real imagery and accounts of the ensuing carnage have emerged – they were horrifying and real – many social media users share misleading claims, including miscaptioned imagery, to shape public perception.

Some misinformation claiming to be from Israel, Gaza, Lebanon, and elsewhere are doctored footage, manipulated video, false translations, footage from video games, and more. 

Unfortunately, some were shared unintentionally by journalists and officials. This includes footage from previous conflicts, incorrect geolocation, and false context.

Here is a closer look at misinformation spreading online — and the facts.

1. News spread that Nimrod Aloni, a top general in the Israeli army, was captured by Hamas militants on Saturday in southern Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip. But there’s no truth to this claim. Aloni appears 10 seconds into a video posted on Sunday on the Israeli military’s official YouTube channel of top IDF officials discussing the war.

2. When Hamas launched the October 7 surprise attack, militants backed by rocket fire flew into Israel on paragliders. But thousands of people on social media watched unrelated footage of Egyptian paratroopers skydiving over the Egyptian Military Academy in Cairo, which has been online since September.

3. US President Joe Biden has offered Israel “all appropriate means of support” and is physically moving military ships and aircraft closer. A memo shows that US President Joe Biden announced sending Israel $8 billion in military aid. An image of a widely shared memo online was fabricated, and the White House confirmed that Biden had not made any such announcement. The memo is a doctored version of Biden’s order providing war assistance to Ukraine this summer.

4. After breaching the Gaza border fence, a music festival attended by thousands in the Israeli kibbutz of Reim was one of the Hamas militants’ first targets. Circulating on social networks as showing the moment the festival was attacked, however, was a video filmed three days earlier, showing fans of singer Bruno Mars running into a Tel Aviv concert ground to see him perform.

5. Two videos show Russian President Vladimir Putin warning the US to “stay away” from the latest Gaza war. But the videos circulating online are months-old clips of Putin speaking about the Russia-Ukraine war, not the conflict in the Middle East, which have been miscaptioned in English.

6. A video of a young girl with a man speaking in Arabic has been shared online with the false description that it shows Hamas militants with a kidnapped girl in the aftermath of the shock offensive. Accounts on X and Facebook shared the video as if filmed after the shock October 7 attack on Israel by Islamist militant group Hamas, writing: “Hamas terrorist with kidnapped Jewish baby girl.” The video was posted on TikTok on September 8, nearly a month before the October 7 attacks.

7. Another video, originating from TikTok but now unavailable there, has racked up 2 million views on X, claiming to show high-profile Israeli generals captured by Hamas fighters. In fact, the video was originally published by the official YouTube channel of the state security service of Azerbaijan last week and shows arrested former leaders of the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh government.

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