Jerusalem24 – During times of turmoil, war and emergencies, fake and misleading information and news flood social media outlets, causing distress, confusion and harm.
During the last aggression on Gaza, social media users shared information about the situation in the Strip, mostly images and videos showing the destruction left by Israeli airstrikes.
But among the factual news stories that emerged, a number of fake and misleading stories were shared via social media, as reported by Kashif, a platform that specializes in debunking misleading and fake information.
Dina Al-Masri, fact-checker at Kashif, tells Jerusalem24 the trend for sharing fake and misleading news usually increases during wars and times of chaos.
“In today’s world, everyone is a journalist, everyone has a social media account where they share news without fact-checking first.”
“A prime example of this, what happened in the last war on Gaza, people started sharing videos and images that are old, hoping to gain sympathy even if it’s old or false and is not from Palestine.”
The use of misleading information can of course be observed on the pro-Israeli side as well, often sharing misleading information intentionally in order to cause confusion and distress for the public. Conversely, pro-Israeli activists also seize the opportunity that fake news is spread among Palestinians, debunking the claims and presenting this as proof that “the Palestinians are lying and there are no Palestinian victims – even though there are.”
One example is Israeli authorities asserting that an airstrike that killed six Palestinians including four children in Jabaliya was a misfire by the Islamic Jihad. In order to support this statement (which has preliminarily found to be correct), the Israeli military published contradictory and demonstrably false video “evidence”.
Even though the claim was correct, the “evidence” presented in this case was false or misleading.
Here we debunk some of that “evidence” following a timeline of events as they are known.
Around 08:57 PM (coinciding with Isha’s prayer), a fired rocket curved and hit a location in Jabaliya refugee camp, as evidenced in the video below.
Israeli Forces spokesperson to Arabic media, Avichay Adraee, at 10:43 PM shared a video of a single rocket fired taking a curve and hitting a close location to the initial launching spot, claiming that it was a failed launching operation that claimed the lives of Gazans.
— افيخاي ادرعي (@AvichayAdraee) August 6, 2022
The following day at 08:57 AM, Adree tweeted an Israeli Forces video showing a number of rockets being fired from Gaza. In the video, a red circle can be seen following one rocket out of the bunch, which starts to dim and then slowly falls to the ground, while other rockets are still being launched.
#الفجر_الصادق شاهدوا الصاروخ الذي أطلقه مخربو #الجهاد_الإسلامي مساء أمس وسقط على رؤوس سكان #جباليا وسبب في #مجزرة_جباليا المفجعة. هل ستكون لوسائل الاعلام العربية الشجاعة الكافية لنشر هذا التوثيق والاعتراف بالحقيقة؟ شاركوا !! pic.twitter.com/HlH6gVRwEx
— افيخاي ادرعي (@AvichayAdraee) August 7, 2022
Around 9:05 PM, an airstrike killed six and injured 15 in a residential area near a mosque in Jabaliya refugee camp north of the Gaza Strip, according to residents in the area.
Around 9:10 PM, Israeli media said that six Islamic Jihad fighters were targeted and killed in Jabaliya, referring the news to Palestinian sources.
At 10:49 PM, Israeli Forces claimed it conducted an “in-depth debrief” concluding that the Jabaliya events were the outcome of an Islamic Jihad rocket misfire, saying it did not conduct any activities in Jabaliya at the time.
Following the reports of the tragic events in Jabaliya, the IDF concluded an in-depth debrief. Based on all the IDF systems data, it appears that this event is the outcome of an Islamic Jihad rocket misfire. We did not conduct any activities in Jabaliya at the time of the event.
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) August 6, 2022
The six Palestinians killed were identified as Momen al-Nairab, 5, Hazem Salem, 9, Khalil Shubair, 10 and Ahmad al-Nairb, 11, Nafid Mohammd Al-Khatib, 50, Mohammad Mohammad Zaqout, 20, according to medical sources.
A video shared on Palestinian social media shows the actual aftermath of the airstrike on Jabaliya refugee camp, and activists and journalists have concluded from the video that the strike was the result of a misfired rocket.
In another case of the Israeli military disseminating false information, on the day of the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a video shared by the Israeli military claimed that soldiers were shooting at Palestinian gunmen who in turn were shooting back and “probably” killed Abu Akleh.
Israeli Human rights Organization B’tselem debunked the video the Israeli military shared on its official Twitter account, which it said provided potential evidence that Palestinian gunmen had shot journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as well as the Israeli Foreign Ministry republished the video on their official Twitter accounts. The video was widely shared and circulated on social media and in Israeli media.
B’tselem documented a walk-through they conducted between the location where the video was filmed and where Abu Akleh was shot, showing a distance of several hundred meters between the two.
This morning, B’Tselem’s field researcher in Jenin documented the exact locations in which the Palestinian gunman depicted in a video distributed by the Israeli army, fired, as well as the exact location in which Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed. pic.twitter.com/6VbEJJuF7z
— B’Tselem בצלם بتسيلم (@btselem) May 11, 2022
Al-Masri tells Jerusalem24 that this kind of fake and misleading news only causes chaos and distress, the harm of which extends towards “citizens and governments at the same time, where news may cause people to go to areas that are dangerous but the news shared said it was safe.”
Another case where sharing fake and misleading information caused “harm and distress” was on the day Israeli forces shot and killed Palestinian fighter Ibrahim Nabulsi. With no clear confirmation of whether he was alive or dead, people started storming the hospital.
At the same time, rumors spread on social media that the hospital Nabulsi was being treated at needed blood donations, which caused the official page for the Palestinian Ministry of Health to post that they did not need any blood donations and asking people to refrain from going to the hospital.
“All of which caused chaos at the hospital and interrupted the medical staff’s work,” says Al-Masri.
“A lot of fake and misleading news gets shared on different social media pages – and [the pages] usually have weird names, and they usually start operating in times like the war and other emergencies, and then disappear right away after the events are over.”
The harm and distress caused by fake and misleading news goes beyond any good it could do: sympathy collected through using old media or even media from different regions can only cause people to lose trust. Debunking and stopping the spread of such news is important and must continue.
Jerusalem24 editor Nadeen Alshaer contributed additional reporting to this story.