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Tech firms struggle as Israel-Gaza falsehoods explode



Social media users are being bombarded with fake combat photos, old videos from Syria repurposed to look like they were taken from Gaza, and conflict-themed video game footage being passed off as a scene from a Hamas attack, misinformation researchers say.

An image circulating online purported to show Israeli soldiers captured by Hamas, but AFP fact-checkers found that the picture was taken in 2022 during a military exercise in Gaza.

AFP fact-checkers also found several posts on X, Facebook and TikTok promoted a fake White House document allocating US$8 billion in military assistance to Israel.

“The sheer amount of doctored, fake, old videos and images of attacks circulating (online) is making it harder to understand what is going on” in Israel and Gaza, said Alessandro Accorsi, a senior analyst at the Crisis Group think-tank.

Accorsi voiced “huge concern” that the misinformation, especially fake images of hostages including children, could stoke violence.

“In crises like terrorist atrocities, wars and natural disasters, people tend to descend on social media platforms for quickly accessible information,” Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, told AFP.

“(But) the flood of grifters spreading lies and hate to garner engagement and followers, combined with algorithms that promote this extreme and disturbing content, is why social media is in fact such a bad place to access reliable information.”

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