As the conflict between Israel and Hamas escalates, a wave of anti-Palestinian disinformation has been spreading on X, the microblogging platform formerly known as Twitter. Many of the false or misleading posts have been traced to verified Indian accounts, some of which have millions of followers.
Several verified Indian X users have been leading a disinformation campaign, mostly targeting Palestine negatively or being supportive of Israel. These “disinfluencers” – influencers who have routinely shared disinformation – have peddled tropes that have sought to showcase Palestinians as fundamentally brutal, violent or deceptive.
Hamas kidnapping a Jewish baby and beheading a young boy on the back of a truck. This was debunked by BOOM as an old video from Syria that had nothing to do with Hamas or Palestine.
Palestinians staging a scene using child actors to show Israeli soldiers killing children. This was exposed by BOOM as behind-the-scenes footage from the Palestinian short film ‘Empty Place’.
Israel’s counterattack against Hamas is shown by a video of fighter jets flying in formation. This was revealed by BOOM as a clip from a combat flight simulator video game called DCS World.
High-ranking Israeli military officials are being captured by Hamas. This was proven by BOOM to be a video of men being arrested by Azerbaijan’s State Security Service for operating illegal armed groups in the country.
BOOM’s analysis suggests that the disinformation campaign is driven by a combination of factors, such as India’s close ties with Israel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s affinity with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the growing influence of Hindu nationalism and Islamophobia in India.
However, some of the changes he introduced, such as granting blue ticks to accounts that had been previously suspended or banned for spreading hate speech or misinformation, and prioritizing posts based on engagement rather than chronology, have been criticized for creating a haven for disinformation.
The disinformation campaign by Indian influencers has not gone unnoticed by Palestinian activists and supporters, who have called out the false or misleading posts and urged X to take action against them. Some have also expressed their disappointment and anger at India’s stance on the conflict, which they perceive as biased towards Israel.
The disinformation campaign also poses a challenge for journalists and fact-checkers who are trying to cover the conflict accurately and ethically. Moreover, some of the false or misleading posts may have already influenced public opinion or policy decisions before they are debunked.
The disinformation campaign also raises questions about the role and responsibility of social media platforms like X in moderating content and preventing the spread of hate speech and misinformation. While X has claimed that it has taken steps to combat disinformation on its platform, such as labeling tweets that contain potentially misleading information and removing tweets that violate its rules, many users have complained that these measures are either ineffective or inconsistent.
As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, so does the disinformation war on X. The stakes are high for both sides, as well as for the millions of people who rely on social media for information and communication. The challenge is to distinguish between fact and fiction, and to promote dialogue and understanding rather than division and hatred.