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7 Viral Tweets About The Israel-Gaza Conflict That Are Actually Fake

Hamas staged a coordinated attack against Israel late Friday ET, Saturday local time, and Israel responded by launching airstrikes against the territory. X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, has been an important tool for learning about the unfolding violence in the region, but some of the viral images coming out of Israel and Gaza are old or taken out of context, while others are just completely fake.

The violence has killed at least 250 Israelis and at least 230 Palestinians, according to the latest figures from the Washington Post, with thousands more injured on both sides. Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Saturday, “we are at war, and we will win it.”

But bad information is getting thrown around at a rapid pace on X as the world tries to make sense of the violence. A video shared by an account with the name Junaid Rajput purports to show a militant with Hamas firing a shoulder-mounted weapon and striking an Israeli helicopter. But as the BBC’s Shayan Sardarizadeh points out, the video is actually from the video game Arma 3.

The video has been seen by over 300,000 people on X at the time of this writing and hasn’t yet received a Community Note, the crowdsourced fact-checking program that allows users to submit corrections for inaccurate information.

Other accounts have also shared the same video with different captions, including one that reads, “Hamas fighters shot down Israel war helicopter in Gaza, Palestine.” Again, the video is actually from a game and doesn’t show anything that’s happening in the real world.

Another Twitter account called AstroCounselKK has spread a false claim that Israel has authorized a tactical nuclear strike against the Gaza Strip. There’s no evidence that Israel has authorized a nuclear strike, tactical or otherwise, in the region, though Israel has begun airstrikes in Gaza, which are expected to escalate overnight, according to the Associated Press.

Tactical nuclear weapons are low-yield nuclear devices that are tremendously powerful, but are small relative to some of the biggest nuclear bombs in existence.

Another account called Jerusalem Post that misspells the city as “Jerusalam” in the actual handle, has been spreading misinformation that’s gone viral. One post has been seen by over 500,000 people at the time of this writing, falsely claiming Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu is ill.

“BREAKING: Benjamin Netanyahu had to be shifted to Sheba Hospital in Tel Shomer, and the reasons are not yet clear,” the fake account tweeted on Saturday.

There’s no evidence that Netanyahu is sick or has been sent to the hospital. The account appears to be intentionally spreading misinformation during a time of confusion.

An account by British politician Jim Ferguson posted video in the early morning hours of Saturday ET, falsely claiming it showed Israeli air strikes against buildings in Gaza.

“Breaking: Counter attacks are underway by Israeli forces as the air force hits back at #Gaza,” Ferguson tweeted, using a video with an Al Jazeera logo in the corner.

In reality, the footage is from 2021, as you can see from a video posted to the BBC’s YouTube page on May 15, 2021.

In the side-by-side of screenshots I’ve made below, you can clearly see it’s the same building. It’s unclear if the BBC licensed the footage to Al Jazeera, which passed it around on its own social media channels. It’s also unclear when Al Jazeera shared this video, but I’ve found no evidence that it did so recently.

An account called Taliban Public Relations Department has gone viral on X several times in recent weeks, despite the fact that there’s no evidence the account is actually controlled by anyone affiliated with the Taliban. An email to an associated account sent back an error message when I tried to confirm its authenticity two weeks ago, but the account went viral again on Saturday claiming the Taliban had sought permission from the governments of Iran and Iraq to travel to Gaza.

“This evening, the foreign office contacted his counterparts in #Iran, Iraq and Jordan, asking for permission for our men to cross their sovereign territory on their way to the holy land. We are preparing and hoping for the good news from our neighbours,” the tweet claims.

A journalist with English-language WIONews in India reports that a Taliban spokesperson has denied reports it had sought approval to travel through Iran and Iraq.

“An Afghan Taliban spox has refuted news item on social media that claims that the Taliban had reportedly sought permission from its neighbours to march to Gaza as False and Incorrect,” Ana Mallick tweeted on Saturday night.

Mallick did not address whether the account is actually controlled by anyone associated with the Taliban, but, again, my efforts to verify its authenticity over recent weeks have proven fruitless.

Ian Miles Cheong, a right-wing influencer in Malaysia, also posted a video on Saturday claiming, “Hamas is going from house to house, butchering the people inside, including women and children taking shelter in basements. Imagine if this was happening in your neighborhood, to your family.”

The video and Cheong’s caption have been viewed over 7 million times on X, but as the Community Note for the tweet explain, it’s an old video that actually shows Israeli police.

Any reporting from the ground can be confusing in chaotic situations. And this conflict between Israel and Gaza is no different. But there has been a noticeable shift over recent months in the amount of misinformation that goes viral on X.

Billionaire owner Elon Musk first stripped so-called “legacy” verification checkmarks from users allowing anyone with $8 to buy the badge without actually having their identity verified. To make matters worse, anyone who buys a blue checkmark sees the X algorithm promote their tweets, meaning it’s easier to go viral. And on top of all that, Musk instituted a new program that pays creators on X for engagement, even if they’re spreading fake news.

This has created a bad situation at X, a site that used to be a reliable, if admittedly flawed, place to find breaking news. You can still find accurate breaking news on the website, but it’s getting harder and harder to keep track of bad actors and misinformation. And that doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon, especially with the current violence unfolding in Israel and Gaza.

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