As always happens when Israel and Hamas are fighting, social media is rife with slogans, pictures and videos for and against – some come from official sources – like the Israel Defense Forces officials Instagram account, for example – and some are spread by citizens, with truth and context cast aside.
So it is no surprise that many of the video clips making the rounds online and purporting to be from Israel, Gaza or the occupied West Bank turn out to be fake in the end, or where there is no connection at all to the present operation in the Gaza Strip.
For example, a video that went viral this week in which people are seen carrying a dead body, and after a warning siren goes off, they run away – and the “dead body” flees too – was presented by pro-Israel supporters as proof of Hamas faking funerals. But fact checking groups looked into the sources of the video and found it was filmed in Jordan and posted online back in March 2020.
Yair Netanyahu, the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, entered the digital fight on Wednesday, too. The younger Netanyahu, who is known for his firebrand politics and usually spreads his message on Twitter and Instagram, has for the past few days posted what seems to be an endless numbers of tweets and pictures supporting Israel, alongside the accusations against the Israeli media that it is working in the service of the enemy.
A clip Netanyahu posted on Wednesday continued in this vein: The video shows a “funeral” in which dozens of bodies are covered in white shrouds while lying on the ground, seemingly dead. When the camera moves along the line of bodies, you can see one of the bodies clearly moving.
Netanyahu added a caption to the clip: "Paliwood! Look at the Palestinian ‘casualties’ in Gaza, accidentally caught on Palestinian live tv.’” The implication was clear: Palestinians are faking the figures regarding the number of casualties in the Gaza Strip.
But it was actually Netanyahu’s tweet and Instagram post that were the fake news. The video he posted isn’t just old, but it isn’t even of a funeral: It is a film of protest by Muslim students at Al-Azhar University in Egypt. The clip appeared on YouTube back on October 28, 2013.
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A number of fact checking groups found that the clip had “made a comeback” on Israeli social media in recent days, in an attempt to present the Palestinian’s public diplomacy as rife with fake news – which in the past has been awarded the controversial name of “Pallywood.”
The fight against fake news is important – and even more so in times of war – and it is a shame that the son of the prime minister of Israel is helping it spread irresponsibly.
Facebook and other social media platforms have faced criticism for the spread of violent content, which critics say has fueled tensions on both sides of the conflict.
In a meeting with reporters at the launch of its latest community standards enforcement report, Facebook’s vice president of content policy, Monika Bickert, said the social media site has “set up a special operations center that has 24-hour capabilities, with native speakers of Arabic and Hebrew, so that we can stay on top of trends, make sure that we are identifying content that violates our policies and remove that quickly.”
The teams are focused on fighting "hate speech, threats of violence, incitement and graphic violence."
A representative for Facebook previously told Haaretz that global news agency Reuters is the social media platform’s Hebrew-language fact-checker for coronavirus disinformation, as well as content related to elections and politics. This team debunked images shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that falsely claimed to be related to the conflict, the news agency reported this week.