In a 28-second video posted to Twitter this week by a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip appeared to launch rocket attacks against Israelis from densely populated civilian areas.
At least, that’s what Netanyahu spokesman Ofir Gendelman said the video showed. But his tweet with the recording, which was shared hundreds of times as the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis developed, did not come from Gaza. Not even this week.
The video he posted, which can be found on many channels on YouTube and other video hosting sites, is from 2018. And, according to captions from previous versions of the recording, it shows activists shooting rockets not from Gaza, but from Syria or Syria. Libya.
The video was just misinformation that circulated on Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, WhatsApp and other social networks this week about the rise in violence between Israelis and Palestinians as Israeli military forces attacked Gaza on Friday. morning (14).
The false information included videos, photos and text clippings allegedly from authorities in the region. Posts earlier this week said, without merit, that Israeli soldiers had invaded Gaza, or that groups of Palestinians were looting quiet residential neighborhoods in Israel.
The lies were amplified by being shared thousands of times on Twitter and Facebook, spreading to WhatsApp and Telegram groups which have thousands of members, according to New York Times analysis. The effect of disinformation is potentially deadly, subject matter experts say, sparking tensions between Israelis and Palestinians as suspicion and mistrust are already heightened.
“Much of it is rumor and a lack of direct communication, but it’s being shared now because people really need information on how the situation is unfolding,” said Arieh Kovler, policy analyst and researcher. independent in Jerusalem studying. the phenomenon of disinformation. “What makes it more confusing is that it is a mixture of false statements and true things, attributed in the wrong place or at the wrong time.”
Twitter and Facebook, which controls Instagram and WhatsApp, did not respond to requests for comment. Christina LoNigro, spokesperson for WhatsApp, said the company has placed limits on the number of times a person can send a message in order to remove misinformation.
TikTok said in a statement, “Our teams are working nimbly to eliminate misinformation, attempted incitement to violence, and other content that violates our community’s policies, and we will continue to do so.”
The Times this week uncovered several pieces of disinformation circulating among neighborhood groups and Israeli and Palestinian activists on WhatsApp. One, which appeared as a block of Hebrew text or an audio file, contained a warning that Palestinian gangs were preparing to attack Israeli citizens.
“The Palestinians are coming; parents, protect your children,” read the post, which specifically pointed to the residential suburbs north of Tel Aviv. Thousands of people were part of one of the Telegram groups where the message was shared; the message later appeared in several WhatsApp groups, which had tens to hundreds of members.
Israeli police did not respond to a request for comment. No cases of violence were reported in the neighborhoods mentioned in the message.
Another article earlier this week, written in Arabic and sent to a WhatsApp group of more than 200 members, warned that Israeli soldiers were to invade the Gaza Strip.
“The invasion is near,” the text reads, asking people to pray for their families.
News sources in Arabic and Hebrew also seem to amplify some of the disinformation. Several Israeli media recently discussed a video showing a family going to a funeral with a body in a shroud, but dropping the body when a police siren sounded. The video was cited by news agencies as evidence that Palestinian families were carrying out bogus burials and exaggerating the number of people killed in the conflict.
In fact, the video appeared on YouTube over a year ago and could show a Jordanian family having a fake funeral, according to a caption left in the original video.
Excerpts from another video showing Jewish clerics tearing their clothes out of devotion also circulated on Arab news sites this week. The clips were cited as evidence that Jews were faking their own injuries during the clashes in Jerusalem.
It was wrong. The video had been posted on WhatsApp and Facebook several times earlier this year, according to the Times analysis.
There is a long history of disinformation being transmitted among Israeli and Palestinian groups, with false allegations and plots increasing during times of greater violence in the region.
In recent years, Facebook has suppressed several Iranian disinformation campaigns aimed at increasing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. Twitter also eliminated in 2019 a network of fake accounts that defamed Netanyahu’s opponents.
The grainy video Gendelman shared on Twitter on Wednesday, which allegedly showed Palestinian militants launching rocket attacks against Israelis, was deleted Thursday after Twitter called it “misleading content.” Gendelman’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Gendelman appears to have mischaracterized the content of other videos. On Tuesday (11), he posted a video on Twitter in which three adult men are asked to lie on the floor, with their bodies positioned by a group of people. Gendelman said the video showed Palestinians creating a scene for propaganda photos.
Kovler, who traced the source of this recording, said it was posted in March on TikTok. The accompanying text indicated that these were people practicing a simulated bombing.