The latest Gaza war began Oct. 7 when Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, launched a series of coordinated attacks on Israel. Image credit: Jash Y Shah/Shutterstock.com.
Almost as soon as news broke about the Israel-Hamas war, online platforms were flooded with misinformation and chaos. It can be challenging during major breaking news events to sort through information and determine which sources and claims are credible, especially when viewing political posts or graphic images that evoke strong emotional reactions. With thousands of people dead and complex social, political and religious context surrounding the conflict, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and confused looking for credible news updates in our fast-moving and tangled information landscape.
Here are a few tips to help you and your students separate fact from fiction when it comes to navigating news about the latest Gaza war.
Analyze what kind of information you’re viewing and be cautious about what you share.
Be sure to consider what evidence is being offered for viral claims and to consult multiple credible sources before liking or sharing social media content. Think about who created the information you’re consuming — whether it’s a TikTok video, a meme on Instagram or a news report — and what their purpose may be. Since the conflict began, misleading content — such as video game footage being passed off as Israel-Hamas war videos — have circulated on social media and attracted millions of views.
Keep in mind that misinformation often flourishes during breaking news events.
There is a high volume of misinformation online about the Israel-Hamas war, according to media experts. Information can be scarce or change rapidly during major developing stories, and misinformation often rushes in to fill those initial voids. It can be difficult to separate genuine footage and updates from misleading posts shared for engagement, clicks or ill intent by bad actors.
Social media platforms aren’t always efficiently moderating content for mis- and disinformation. X, formerly Twitter, has gone through major changes since owner Elon Musk took over about a year ago, including firing many employees who worked on content moderation. Musk himself recommended two accounts known for spreading disinformation to his followers in the aftermath of the initial Hamas attack in a post that he later deleted.
Seek credible news sources.
Although it’s easy to passively rely on a social media algorithm for news updates, it’s worth actively seeking credible news on your own. Social media algorithms may not show much credible news or might create an echo chamber of familiar content that only reinforces your own views.
When searching for credible news sources, remember to look for evidence that the news organization aspires to ethical guidelines and standards, including accuracy, transparency and independence. Taking responsibility for seeking and sharing quality information is important so we don’t add to the confusion online.
NO: The audio track in this video clip of a CNN report about a rocket attack near the Israel-Gaza border — which captures a voice supposedly from a studio telling reporter Clarissa Ward to “try to look nice and scared” — is not from the original footage. YES: This fake audio was digitally inserted into the clip to propagate the false claim that CNN staged the attack. YES: The genuine clip was broadcast live and shows Ward and her team taking cover from an actual barrage of Hamas rockets.
NewsLit takeaway: Conspiracy theorists and other purveyors of disinformation often attempt to discredit legitimate news outlets to explain away inconvenient facts or to direct people to websites and online communities where false and misleading claims proliferate. This fake CNN video is an example of impostor content, which is inauthentic information shared to look like the real thing. In this case, the impostor content is pushing the conspiratorial notion that news reports are often staged to manipulate the public. The goal here is twofold: First, to discredit the news network, and second, to cast doubt about contemporary events.
Doctored audio can be harder to detect than manipulated video. Comparing viral content to the original source is the best way to root out these fakes, but people should also check out the nature of the accounts pushing a particular video. This manipulated video, for example, was widely shared by accounts with a track record of amplifying conspiracy theories with false and doctored content. By filtering these accounts out of our feeds, we can lessen our chances of encountering these types of harmful claims.
NewsLit takeaway: Breaking news stories, especially those involving widespread devastation or controversial topics, are regularly followed by waves of disinformation as bad actors attempt to capitalize on the public’s attention to get cheap engagement online, as well as sow divisive narratives and advance ideological goals. While the specific claims change from one event to the next, the tactics are consistent: Videos and images from old and unrelated events, or even from realistic video games, are repurposed and shared out of context, and statements from world leaders are fabricated.
The widespread prevalence of these falsehoods creates a distorted view of current events that may influence and alter a person’s global perspective. For this reason, it is important to be especially diligent during breaking news events.
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