As the Hamas-Israel war continues into its seventh week, .
Since Hamas’ 7 October attack, analysts and fact checkers have been monitoring content shared on platforms like X, formerly Twitter, and TikTok, which can attract millions of views.
Some fear that mis- and disinformation is having real-time consequences.
Seeing a conflict play out online isn’t new , but one expert says the way audiences relate to, and platforms moderate, such content has changed.
SBS News has collaborated with RMIT’s FactLab CrossCheck, which verifies online claims, to investigate some of the viral content that is circulating about the war. We’ve also used fact checks from global news agencies AFP and Reuters.
Video purporting to show nurse working at al-Shifa hospital
A video purporting to show a nurse working at Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital has gone viral on social media. In the video, the nurse speaks out against Hamas, claiming the group is stealing food, fuel and medicine from the hospital.
According to RMIT CrossCheck, the video has been viewed almost 17 million times in just one X post by .
RMIT’s Esther Chan referred to an analysis by open-source investigators Eekad that found the video was likely doctored to include the sound of explosions.
“Eekad found that the loud bangs heard throughout the video, and which are supposed to depict explosions happening in the woman’s surroundings, share nearly identical sound waves,” she said.
“This means they might be added at intervals to the video and did not happen in real-time.”
Eekad publishes in English and Arabic, and those who manage its Facebook page are predominantly based in Qatar, where Arabic is the official language.
“The Eekad team … found the woman mispronounced Arabic letters. This means she may not be a native Arabic speaker, while most Palestinians speak Palestinian Arabic,” Chan said.
The woman in the video was later who is originally from Mexico.
Journalist Shayan Sardarizadeh from BBC Verify, who has debunked a series of posts relating to the war on social media, said he spoke to Abutbul and confirmed she was not the woman in the video.
Abutbul also responded in a video posted to Instagram, saying it’s “definitely another person”. She has vowed to sue for defamation after being trolled online and receiving death threats, Chan said.
Claims behind-the-scenes film footage shows Palestinians faking injuries
Footage of makeup being applied to a child and a man directing a group of people holding Palestinian flags has been shared online without context to back up claims Gazans are staging injuries during the war.
However, the clip has been found to be behind-the-scenes footage from a short film made in Lebanon as an artistic interpretation of the crisis in Gaza.
Reuters has debunked the clip as “miscaptioned” and circulated in a false context, while AFP reports the claim is false and part of a style of videos often referred to as “Pallywood”.
The term, a blending of the words Palestine and Hollywood, has long been used to describe videos and images of purportedly staged hardships in the Palestinian territories.
“The Palestinians are fooling the international media and public opinion. DON’T FALL FOR IT,” reads the caption of a by Ofir Gendelman, the Arabic language spokesperson for the Israeli prime minister’s office, which included the video in question.
“See for yourselves how they fake injuries and [are] evacuating “injured” civilians, all in front of thr [sic] cameras. Pallywood gets busted again.”
RMIT Crosscheck’s Chan said the video features actors in a short film called The Reality, directed by Mahmoud Ramzi in Lebanon, and posted to Instagram .
The circulating video was by Rami Jardali, a member of the cast.
“After the footage was misused to share the false ‘Pallywood’ claim, Ramzi reposted an Instagram video that explained the film is an artistic interpretation of the crisis in Gaza,” Chan said.
New York billboard shows messages purporting to support Israel
A video circulating on social media purports to show footage of an electronic billboard in New York City that replaces the slogan “Stand With Ukraine” with “Stand With Israel”.
According to AFP, the November clip is doctored and the company that owns the sign said it has run no such message.
“Advertising in New York… The text ‘Support Israel’ squeezes out the text ‘Support Ukraine,” read from a popular account called W i z a r d S X.
“The agenda of New York’s billboards seems to have changed,” the same profile, which AFP says has previously spread disinformation about both conflicts under aliases, .
The earliest iteration of the video found by AFP was uploaded by a Russian-language Telegram channel on 9 November.
“The ad in question is, indeed, a fake,” Jason King, a spokesman for Clear Channel Outdoor, the company that owns the electronic billboards in question and whose logo is visible in the video, reportedly said.
“It is not running, nor has it ever run on our displays.”
At the end of the ad, an ABC News (America) credit appears, alongside the slogan: “Watch The News. Stay in Trend”. AFP reports a network source also said the alleged message is not an ad from ABC News.
AFP went one step further, geolocating and visiting the billboards to find them showing what appeared to be an ad for the animated film Trolls Band Together.
The BBC’s Sardarizadeh also debunked the video as being “digitally altered” and false.
Footage of old military exercise claims to show US troops landing in Israel
A purports to show US troops and tanks arriving in Israel to support the country’s war effort against Hamas. AFP has debunked this as false, revealing the footage shows a joint US-Australian military training exercise in 2017.
“Emergency Deployment Thousands of Troops and US Military Equipment Lands of (sic) Israeli Beaches,” says text over the post, which shows soldiers arriving on a beach with amphibious landing craft.
According to AFP, the video has also circulated elsewhere on TikTok, along with YouTube and Facebook.
It says a reverse image search using screenshots from the clip surfaced the same footage in an published by the US Army.
“Exercise Talisman Saber is the largest combined, joint military exercise undertaken by the Australian Defence Force and provides invaluable experience to ADF and US personnel to improve combat training, readiness and interoperability, exposing participants to a wide spectrum of military capabilities and training experiences,” the caption says.
A spokesperson for the Department of Defence confirmed to SBS News the imagery in question was “taken from footage of ADF personnel conducting amphibious operations training in Shoalwater Bay, Queensland, during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2017”.
The footage was captured by an ADF military camera team and is available
The TikTok post has also been debunked by BBC journalist Olga Robinson.
A ‘perfect storm of misinformation’
Alessandro Accorsi is a senior analyst with the independent non-profit organisation International Crisis Group. He looks at the impact of new technologies and social media on conflicts and has studied the Israel-Palestinian issue for decades.
Accorsi describes the current war as a “perfect storm of misinformation”.
“It’s a conflict that is very emotional for many people, one in which most people around the world … have preconceived opinions and strong confirmation biases,” he said.
“The conflict is played out not only on the ground, but also in the digital space.
“This is not new in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But there is something new here, and that is extremely worrying because it has, in my view, real consequences on the growing hostilities.”
Accorsi partly attributes this to changes in our relationship with social media, its structure and how certain platforms operate and moderate content.
“We’re more used to social media as a resource … but at the same time, we’re more distrustful towards social media. We know that mis- and disinformation is a thing on social media,” he said.
“However, our relationship to it is that [it] doesn’t work any more to win new hearts and minds, to change people’s opinion, but rather to radicalise our own confirmation biases and opinions, and silo audiences.”
Accorsi said the more audiences are exposed to mis- and disinformation — whether it’s related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic or the Russia-Ukraine war — “the more the discourse becomes radicalised and polarised”.
The ongoing Hamas-Israel war
Israel has bombarded Gaza since Hamas’ 7 October attack in which more than 1,200 people were killed and over 200 hostages taken, according to the Israeli government.
Since then, more than 14,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-controlled enclave.
Around major incidents, Accorsi said a combination of recycled and doctored content has been circulating on social media, along with repackaged content.
“That third type is actually real content that is being packaged in a way that either elicits a strong emotional response, or that presents a thesis and gives answers that appeal to one side,” he said.
What are the impacts of online misinformation?
Accorsi said online discourse could have real impacts on a conflict, by creating a “climate of impunity for more attacks” and reducing “incentives” to de-escalate or contain fighting.
It can also affect decision-making for civilians and the ability of organisations to use social media to plan emergency responses, Accorsi said.
“With such a sheer amount of misinformation and false information, it’s harder to understand what’s happening, and harder to do that planning,” he said.
Accorsi believes online discourse makes it “harder to understand what a way out of this conflict could look like”.
And, ultimately, it risks fuelling extremism.
“The fact that you have these two very polarising extremist narratives is very concerning in the long term.”
With additional reporting by AFP, Reuters.