The Student News Site of The American School in Japan


The Student News Site of The American School in Japan


The Student News Site of The American School in Japan


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The Spread of False Information Amidst the Israel-Hamas War

Reading Time: 2 minutes

On October 7, the Palestinian militant group Hamas conducted a surprise attack against Israel in which hundreds of gunmen blew through the Israeli-Gaza border, kidnapped 203 citizens, and killed 1400 Israelis. In response, the Israeli government has said it will remove Hamas from its military and political power through a siege and retaliatory attacks on Gaza.

Recently, false information has proliferated on social media and has been used to fuel arguments for either side of the war. As users make it a habit to frequently interact with and post attention-attracting news and typically neglect to fact-check, the risk of false information spreading increases. 

False information can be distinguished in two ways: misinformation and disinformation. Misinformation is the spread of unintentionally inaccurate information. On the other hand, disinformation is the deliberate spread of false information to mislead an audience. 

A prominent example of the spread of misinformation comes from a CNN news report on October 11. CNN shared that Tal Heinrich, spokesperson for the Israeli prime minister, stated that Hamas beheaded multiple Israeli babies. The news sparked outrage, with popular media figure Joan Collins expressing that she was “shocked and horrified” to hear such news and that the act was “not the sort of thing a human being does” but rather an “animal.” 

Later, the Israeli military confirmed the information was unverified. Following this confirmation, CNN anchor Sara Sidner, one of the first to report Heinrich’s words, retracted her statements and wrote on social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter), “I needed to be more careful with my words and I am sorry.” 

In this incident, CNN were led to believe what they had been told was true—when it was, in fact, not confirmed—and subsequently spread that story to its audience. Despite the issuing of an apology and efforts to report the error on live television, the misinformation had already been spread to mass audiences.

Disinformation has been spread more informally throughout X—alongside various other social media platforms—a multitude of times. AI-generated images, old videos with new captions, and unrelated images with war-related captions are a few examples of disinformation circulating on the platform. 

An altered video posted on X exemplifies another form of disinformation. The post is published with the caption, “CNN EXPOSED FOR FAKING AN ATTACK IN ISRAEL,” as a video depicts the CNN team “staging” an attack from overhead rockets at the direction of a voice over. The post received 4.3 million views and more than 35,000 likes, with users responding that “The west is an empire of lies” and “…the Media is owned by zionists, they can’t even hide their bias anymore..” 

Invalidating the credibility of the video, a CNN spokesperson told the New York Post, “The audio in the video posted and shared on X is fabricated, inaccurate and irresponsibly distorts the reality of the moment that was covered live on CNN.” Additionally, the Community Notes feature on X has been used to inform viewers of the video’s alteration. 

Again, similar to the misinformed spread of beheaded Israeli babies, social media users quickly created opinions and perceptions about the war while neglecting to fact-check, and inaccurate information reached a vast audience. 

Evidently, whether misinformation or disinformation, the consequences stay almost entirely the same: large audiences receive false information, and the news of its debunking does not reach nearly the number of people it was initially spread to.

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About the Contributor
Hi! My name is Carolin. I'm currently a sophomore and have been at ASIJ since 2017. I used to live in Sweden and enjoy reading, writing, and baking.

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