The massacre of more than 1,300 Israelis* in the villages in the south of Israel near the Gaza Strip border is now fodder for a massive disinformation campaign that has ramped up across social media.
Fake news is being deliberately spread across all social networks like X, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
The nation of Israel is in mourning, and countries around the world are involved not only because their own dual citizens have been killed, but dozens of them appear to be among the 100 to 150 hostages, which are now reported to include at least nine children, taken back into Gaza by Hamas.
As reported by Al Jazeera, of all platforms, Elon Musk’s X appears to have had the worst outbreak of fake news, fake videos, photos, and misleading information about the conflict. Much of it is aimed at portraying the opposite of the truth; attempting to present the Israeli military as having attacked Hamas, praising the terrorists, and showing what is claimed to be massacre scenes (many of them faked from other years and other geographic areas).
What is clear is that while Musk is the richest man in the world, after buying Twitter (renamed X) he changed its usage policies. Now he allows the vaunted check-verification on any account that will pay for it.
This, accompanied by large layoffs of the social media’s Trust and Safety teams, translated to only a few thousand of the massive disinformation deluge being deleted, spreading false information about this tragedy that has generated 50 million posts; the vast majority fakes.
This vastly distorts what the public is seeing and hearing. Social media platform rumors are flying, and terrible videos and photos of carnage are being faked (including deep fakes claiming that Israel was the attacker, not Hamas).
Claims are being made that Israel is using banned weapons in Gaza (They aren’t in Gaza, and turned it over to the Palestinians in 2005). Or — that Hamas soldiers are using U.S. weapons “left behind in Afghanistan used to attack Israel”. (Also not true).
This makes the reality of what has actually happened — the worst attack on the Jewish people since the World War II holocaust — almost surreal. Because of the massive disinformation campaign being waged against the Jewish people on top if the tragedy of terror, the Israeli government has released a very few photos today of the attacks on babies, which NBC News made a decision to show only once — today. AVV will not publish the photos.
“To see the baby cribs and the babies full of bullet holes and blood. Babies burned to death … Who kills a baby? said one Israeli solider describing the depravity his soldiers found.
“Depravity in the worst possible way,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, swallowing hard while speaking in a press conference this morning commenting on the scenes of slaughter. “It is beyond comprehension.”
He described the massacre scenes in the villages in the south of Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip, through which more than a thousand Humas fighters emerged last Saturday to rape and burn and hack and explode gasoline tanks on innocent civilians — farmers most of them. He described babies riddled with bullets, others burned to death in their cribs, children beheaded, little girls raped, and whole families hacked to death or burned alive in their homes.
The real horror with which Israelis are dealing in the words of one grieving family member; “It is now burned into our memories … we are going to face Hamas and face these threats.”
As President Joe Biden so eloquently said in his remarks yesterday; the humanity of the world must decry not just the inhumanity of these attacks, but the continuing violation and vilification of the Jewish people by this tsunami of disinformation. He spoke of compassion, and promised America’s unwavering support of Israel, saying “We’ve got your back.” It was the most pro-Israeli speech of any American president, ever.
In contrast, Donald Trump in a rambling two-hour tirade, criticized Israel and its leadership and praised Hamas and Hezbollah calling them “very smart.”
“This must be a moment for moral clarity,” said Blinken today. “We must condemn terrorism.”
Lies Pile onto the terrible Reality
We must also condemn the purposeful spreading of fake news images and videos that are flooding the Internet. This means that ordinary consumers of news must weigh what they are seeing and the source from which it comes. If someone shares a video or photo image with you even if it’s got the now untrustworthy X verification check, think carefully.
Even if it affirms your own worldview, don’t just pass along things you receive on social media as if it is “the gospel truth,” investigate. You can use Google “Reverse Image Search” to find the actual source of the image or video – most are being pulled from months and in some cases years ago in situations not remotely connected to the current crisis.
Return to your trusted major news organizations — the Associated Press, the BBC, Al Jazeera, the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the major news networks who have robust fact-checking resources on the ground there. At AVV, if we use any images while reporting on the Israel-Hamas conflict, we will only use images from these trusted news sources.
As American consumers of information, this reporter adds that we must condemn not just the terrorism, and the sheer brutality — but the disinformation — and not allow it to override our humanity.
* The number has been updated based on current information.