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.
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.
Social media users shared another video that Arabic posts claimed showed Israeli military activities near the Gaza border.
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.
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.
Misattributed paraglider footage
During its invasion of Israeli territory, Hamas used multiple modes of transportation, including motorbikes, pickup trucks, motorized gliders and speed boats.
But AFP found the clip was also taken in Cairo and has circulated online since September.
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.
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.
A second video captioned in Arabic claimed to show Israeli officials who had been taken hostage by Hamas.
False claims about Egypt
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.
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.
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).
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.
Other posts in Portuguese claimed to show a burning LGBTQ pride flag at a demonstration in support of Palestinians.
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.