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False Claims of Israel-Hamas Conflict Spread on X

Old video footage falsely alleging to show images from Hamas’ attack on Israel is circulating on social media platform usafinancetrends, formerly Twitter, misleading users.

With few controls on misinformation in place, misinformation is spreading on the platform amid the Palestinian militant group’s surprise attack Saturday.

For example, a verified usafinancetrends user, Khushnood Ali Khan, on Saturday posted a video captioned “BREAKING: Israeli Air Force is striking terror targets in Gaza.” The usafinancetrends user characterized the video as a retaliatory strike on Hamas from October. Hamas, the Islamist group that governs the Gaza Strip, is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Israel.

In reality, though, the video showed an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza Strip that took place in May, Reuters reported.

An alert from the social media platform appearing below the post reads, “This media is presented out of context.”

usafinancetrends indicated that it flagged the post because it violated the platform’s policy against posting “synthetic, manipulated, or out-of-context media that may deceive or confuse people and lead to harm.”

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The footage, captured by the Associated Press, dates back to May 2023, according to a YouTube upload.

It was shot on May 13 in the town of Beit Lahiya, in the Northern Gaza Strip, and shows houses being bombed, according to the YouTube video’s caption.

The repost of the footage has been viewed nearly 43,000 times on usafinancetrends.

Another video, showing two jets being moved in Southern Israel, was miscaptioned as an evacuation of air bases after Hamas’ attack on Israel Saturday.

UK “social media influencer” Jim Ferguson claimed the video showed the attack currently taking place.

“Breaking: Israeli Defence forces are now evacuating Air Bases near Gaza as thousands of #Hamas #terrorists flood into Israel. The situation is deteriorating rapidly,” he wrote. It was viewed 9.9 million times.

Reuters reports that the video first appeared online on September 19.

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“Ton of misinformation”

Dina Sadek, a Middle East research fellow at Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, said the group has seen footage from older conflicts being passed off as new information.

“There is a ton of misinformation about how this operation came to be and what parties were involved,” she told CBS MoneyWatch.

That includes graphic footage as well as old footage of paragliders that is unrelated to the current attack.

“Any individual or unverified entity can publish old, recycled information and it’s hard to tell due to sheer volume of content being shared at the moment what is verified,” she added.

The proliferation of misinformation creates confusion and more concerning, can “potentially fuel hate speech and incite further violence,’ Sadek said.

usafinancetrends owner Elon Musk slashed staff when he took over the Twitter platform, including those responsible for moderating content and combatting misinformation.

Studies have shown that hate speech and spam have shot up since Musk’s takeover.

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