Scroll Top

Misinformation about Israel-Hamas war surges across social media

Misinformation about Israel-Hamas war surges across social media - Featured image

Author(s): Gwen Roley / AFP Canada / AFP France / AFP Middle East & North Africa

Hamas launched a multi-pronged assault on Israel on October 7, 2023, killing more than 1,400 people and taking some 150 more as hostages. Israel responded with waves of missile strikes on the Gaza Strip and cut off food, water and electricity to the densely populated Palestinian enclave, where about 2,750 people have been killed. Social media has been used to document the bloody conflict — but it has also been a hotbed of misinformation.

Thousands of Palestinians fled to southern Gaza for refuge on October 13 after Israel warned them to evacuate before an expected ground offensive against Hamas in response to the deadliest attack in Israel’s history.

The ongoing violence has been accompanied by a wave of misinformation shared in numerous languages across platforms — exacerbated by a lack of moderation on social media sites such as X, formerly known as Twitter.

Here is a look at some of the false and misleading information debunked by AFP.

Misrepresented videos

Hamas’s surprise ground, sea and aerial attacks included an ambush of the Supernova music festival near Gaza.

In the hours that followed, a video circulated in English TikTok posts claiming it showed concert attendees fleeing from militants.

More than 200 people were massacred by Hamas at the music festival, but this particular video had nothing to do with the violence.

AFP found the same footage published on TikTok as early as October 4 with a Hebrew caption (archived here) saying it depicts fans rushing to the stage at a Bruno Mars concert in Tel Aviv.

Screenshot from TikTok taken October 10, 2023

Social media users shared another video that Arabic posts claimed showed Israeli military activities near the Gaza border.

But the clips actually depict a 2017 confrontation between the Mexican army and members of drug cartels (archived here).

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken October 7, 2023

Video game clips

Also following the initial ambush, footage of missiles knocking a helicopter out of the sky circulated with Arabic, English and French captions claiming they depicted an Israeli aircraft being shot down by Palestinian fighters.

While Israel is using helicopters in its response to Hamas, a Google keyword search revealed the clip was taken from the military simulation game Arma 3.

Screenshot of an Instagram post taken October 13, 2023

Other video game clips have spread in posts falsely claiming they depict the Israel-Hamas war. AFP has previously reported on how games and simulations are regularly misrepresented as real footage on social media.

“It’s disheartening for us to see the game we all love being used in this way,” said Bohemia Interactive, Arma 3’s developer, in an October 10 post on X.

The firm also reshared a statement (archived here) with tips on how to spot clips from the game. Some accounts sharing the videos regularly admit they were streaming Arma 3.

Misattributed paraglider footage

During its invasion of Israeli territory, Hamas used multiple modes of transportation, including motorbikes, pickup trucks, motorized gliders and speed boats.

Not long after, a video circulated in English, Spanish, GreekHungarian and Korean posts claiming it showed the fighters’ entry by air.

But the footage has been online since at least the end of September. AFP geolocated the clip to a sports club in the Egyptian capital of Cairo — not Israel.

Screenshot of a TikTok taken October 10, 2023
Screenshots from social media taken October 9, 2023, with elements highlighted by AFP

A second video viewed tens of thousands of times in English, Spanish and Portuguese posts purported to show Hamas militants landing in Israel.

But AFP found the clip was also taken in Cairo and has circulated online since September.

Screenshot of an X post taken October 10, 2023

The Egyptian Armed Forces’ spokesperson said in a September 21 Arabic Facebook post that air training was set to take place with the French air force (archived here). The buildings in the video match the appearance of the Egyptian Military Academy.

Comparison between the misleading post (left) and a screenshot of the Egyptian Military Academy on Google Maps (right)

Unsubstantiated hostage posts

After Hamas captured numerous Israeli hostages, social media users claimed a photo showed soldiers the Palestinian militants had taken as prisoners.

However, the picture actually shows a military maneuver in the northern Gaza Strip in 2022.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken October 8, 2023

A second video captioned in Arabic claimed to show Israeli officials who had been taken hostage by Hamas.

In fact, the video was filmed in 2016 after a coup attempt in Turkey.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken October 9, 2023

False claims about Egypt

Neighboring Egypt has often been implicated in conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians — including the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which began 50 years and a day before Hamas’s 2023 offensive.

Diplomats are discussing the possible re-establishment of a safe exit from Gaza into Egypt through the crossing at Rafah, while Cairo appears to be grappling with the decision to accept Palestinian refugees.

Many posts have purported to show Egyptian military aid, including one video with an Arabic caption claiming the clip depicts combat planes at the border with Israel.

This is false — the footage was filmed nine years ago at an air base in South Korea.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken October 9, 2023

Another clip shows a group of soldiers with an Arabic caption claiming they are Egyptian troops inside Palestinian territory.

However, AFP found the original video was published more than a year ago and is unrelated to the recent Israel-Hamas conflict.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken October 10, 2023

Disinformation about Biden, Putin’s responses

The United States has consistently pledged support to Israel in its response to Hamas’s attack.

On October 7, an image appeared in X posts claiming it showed a memo from US President Joe Biden pledging $8 billion in military assistance to Israel.

However, no such authorization exists on the White House website or that of the Federal Register. A keyword search suggests the image is a doctored version of an authentic memo designating $400 million for aid to Ukraine on July 25, 2023 (archived here).

Screenshot of a post on X taken October 9, 2023

AFP also reported on a video of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which Arabic posts claimed depicted his announcement of potential support for Palestinians should the US get involved in the conflict.

The video is actually from 2022 and its translation from Russian is incorrect.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken October 11, 2023

Out-of-context protests

Demonstrations in support of both Israel and Palestinians took place in US cities amid clashes with Hamas.

But a video of people carrying a large Palestinian flag does not show an October 2023 protest in Chicago, as some posts on X claimed in Spanish, Portuguese and English.

A reverse image search surfaced the footage on Facebook and X as early as May 17, 2021 (archived here and here).

Screenshot of an X post taken October 9, 2023

Other posts in Portuguese claimed to show a burning LGBTQ pride flag at a demonstration in support of Palestinians.

But the video actually depicts confrontations at a demonstration in Ukraine in 2017.

Screenshot of a post on X taken October 9, 2023

As the confirmed death toll in the Middle East continues to rise into the thousands, unsubstantiated claims continue to spread across social media — an issue that experts fear could provoke real-world harm.

AFP has debunked other misinformation about the Israel-Hamas conflict here.

Fact Checker Logo
Originally published here.
Privacy Preferences
When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in form of cookies. Here you can change your privacy preferences. Please note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we offer.