Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Lies on social media ignite Israeli-Palestinian conflict

In a 28-second video, posted on Twitter this week by a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip apparently launched rocket attacks on Israelis from densely populated civilian areas.

At least that’s what Mr. Netanyahu’s spokesman Ofir Gendelman said the video was being filmed. But his tweet with the footage, which was shared hundreds of times as the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis escalated, was not from Gaza. It was not even this week.

Instead, the video he shared, which can be found on many YouTube channel and other sites for video presentations, were from 2018. And according to captions on older versions of the video, it showed militants not firing firearms from Gaza, but from Syria or Libya.

The video was just one piece of misinformation circulating on Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media this week about the escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians, while Israeli military ground forces attacked Gaza early Friday. The fake information contains videos, photos and clips of text alleged to be from government officials in the region, with posts claiming earlier this week that Israeli soldiers had invaded Gaza, or that Palestinian crowds were about to be killed by sleepy Israeli suburbs to storm.

The lies were reinforced because they were shared thousands of times on Twitter and Facebook, spread to WhatsApp and Telegram groups that have thousands of members, according to an analysis by The New York Times. The impact of the misinformation is potentially deadly, disinformation experts say, fueling tensions between Israelis and Palestinians when suspicions and mistrust are high.

“A lot of it is rumors and broken phones, but it is currently being shared because people are desperate to share information about the unfolding situation,” said Arieh Kovler, a political analyst and independent researcher in Jerusalem who studies misinformation. “What makes it more confusing is that it’s a mixture of false allegations and real things being attributed to the wrong place or the wrong time.”

Twitter and Facebook, which own Instagram and WhatsApp, did not respond to requests for comment. Christina LoNigro, a spokesperson for WhatsApp, said the company has set limits on how many times people can forward a message as a way to limit misinformation.

TikTok said in a statement: “Our teams have worked quickly to remove misinformation, violence and other content that violates our community guidelines, and will continue to do so.”

The Times this week found several misinformation spread about Israeli and Palestinian neighborhood and activist WhatsApp groups. The one, which appeared as a block of Hebrew text or an audio file, contains a warning that Palestinian crowds are preparing to attack Israeli citizens.

“Palestinians are coming, parents are protecting your children,” reads the message, which showed specifically in several suburban areas north of Tel Aviv. Thousands of people were in one of the Telegram groups where the message was shared; the post then appeared in several WhatsApp groups, which had tens to hundreds of members.

Israeli police did not respond to a request for comment. There were no reports of violence in the areas mentioned in the message.

In another message earlier in the week, written in Arabic and sent to a WhatsApp group with more than 200 members, warnings flashed that Israeli soldiers would invade the Gaza Strip.

‘The invasion is coming’, reads the text in which people are encouraged to pray for their families.

Arabic and Hebrew news sources apparently also reinforced misinformation. Several Israeli newspapers recently covered a video showing a family with a wrapped body walking to a funeral, only to drop the body when a police siren sounded. The video was quoted by news organizations as evidence that Palestinian families are holding false funerals and exaggerating the number of people killed in the conflict.

In fact, the video appeared on YouTube more than a year ago and possibly showed a Jordanian family holding a fake funeral, according to a caption in the original video.

Excerpts from another video showing religious Jews tearing their clothes as a sign of devotion were also circulated on Arabic-language websites this week. The clips were cited as evidence that Jews sustained their own injuries during clashes in Jerusalem.

It was fake. According to the Times analysis, the video was uploaded to WhatsApp and Facebook several times earlier this year.

There is a long history of misinformation shared among Israeli and Palestinian groups, with false allegations and conspiracies emerging during moments of heightened violence in the region.

In recent years, Facebook has removed several disinformation campaigns by Iran aimed at fueling tensions among Israelis and Palestinians. Twitter also took down a network of fake accounts in 2019 that was used to oppose Mr. To lubricate Netanyahu.

The grain video that Mr. Gendelman shared on Twitter on Wednesday, which allegedly shows how Palestinian militant rocket attacks began on Israelis, was removed on Thursday after Twitter described it as “misleading content”. The office of mr. Gendelman did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Gendelman apparently also mischaracterized the content of other videos. On Tuesday, he posted a video on Twitter instructing three adult men to lie on the floor while their bodies were arranged by a crowd in the area. Mr. Gendelman says the video shows Palestinians performing bodies for a photo opportunity.

Mr. Kovler, who redirected the video to the source, said the video was posted on TikTok in March. The accompanying text states that the footage shows people practicing for a bombing exercise.

Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com
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