X reportedly flooded with Israel-Hamas conflict disinformation

10 Oct 2023

Image: © MMollaretti/Stock.adobe.com

Various examples are being shared of graphic and false content spreading across the platform, while Musk was criticised for recommending unreliable accounts.

X, the site formerly known as Twitter, is in the spotlight again because of the misleading content that is being spread on the platform.

The website has seen a wave of videos spread relating to the conflict taking place between Israel and Hamas in Palestine. X claims that there have been more than 50m posts about the conflict since the weekend’s events.

But there are reports of graphic content spreading across the platform, along with various posts that are spreading false narratives. Elliot Higgins, the founder of investigative journalism group Bellingcat, reported a “totally false claim” of Israel bombing a church in Gaza that he argued was spread on X due by multiple verified accounts.

“Musk hasn’t given the voiceless a voice, he’s just dragged us all down into the swamp, and the only people who truly benefit are shameless grifters,” Higgins said in one post.

Other reports suggest the platform is struggling to stop the spread of misleading content even after it has been flagged. CNBC reports that one video of an airstrike was flagged as misleading by X, yet there were still dozens of posts with the same content not being flagged by the site.

A report by The Information claims X shut down a disinformation-fighting tool that could identify when different accounts shared the same or similar media. Last month, Elon Musk said X cut staff that were focused on preventing disinformation during elections.

X claims that its escalation teams have taken action against “tens of thousands of posts” for sharing graphic media, violent speech and hateful conduct.

“Plus we’ve taken action to remove several hundred accounts attempting to manipulate trending topics,” X’s safety account said.

The spread of disinformation on X was recently called out by the EU, after a report claimed the site had the highest proportion of disinformation when ranked against other major social media platforms including Facebook, TikTok and LinkedIn.

Musk endorses risky accounts

The owner of X has faced some personal criticism during this confusing period, for recommending that users follow two accounts that appear to be linked to the spread of disinformation.

In a post that has since been deleted, Musk said two accounts were good choices for “following the war in real time”. One of these accounts has posted antisemitic replies in the past, according to screenshots.

A screenshot suggests that one of these accounts helped spread a false claim earlier this year that the US Pentagon had been attacked.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic