Fact-checking tool NewsGuard has launched a publicly available resource showing the top false narratives about the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.
The Israel-Hamas War Misinformation Tracking Center details 14 false or unsubstantiated claims circulating the internet, broadly fitting into four main themes: the attack against Israel was a false flag (pinning the blame on another party); Israel is staging footage of dead children killed by Hamas; The Biden administration approved an $8 billion aid package for Israel; and Ukraine sold weapons to Hamas.
These claims have collectively amassed 22 million views across major social platforms: X (formerly Twitter), TikTok, and Instagram - within three days of the Hamas attack. They are now in the process of being added to NewsGuard's Misinformation Fingerprints, a constantly updated, machine-readable database of false narratives.
There appear to be similarities between this conflict and the early stages of the Russia-Ukraine war in the techniques used to spread fake combat footage. Some users have passed off video game footage as real, while others shared out-of-context clips from other incidents or wars.
Misinformation analysts found that verified X users - i.e. premium service subscribers - were able to amplify false or misleading posts due to the platform’s algorithm. To the uninitiated, these "verified" or "blue tick" accounts can be seen as credible to the public.
"The false flag theme is especially outrageous, given the barbarity of the attack on Israel,” says NewsGuard co-CEO Gordon Crovitz, formerly the publisher of Wall Street Journal. "And the different varieties we are already seeing suggest that it's a contagion that is only going to get far worse.”
NewsGuard analysts identified 31,745 posts and articles in English, French, German, and Italian about the Israel-Hamas conflict containing the phrase "false flag", "staged", or "psy op" in those languages, with some high-profile examples.
Its analysis shows that the "false flag" posts and articles garnered 140,850 likes and reposts combined. From 3 to 9 October, content with the hashtag #falseflag increased by 462 per cent compared to the previous seven-day period, experiencing a notable spike on 7 October, the day of the attack.
A pro-Russia site Veterans Today (NewsGuard Trust Score: 22.5/100) also linked the Gaza conflict to conspiracies about the 9/11 attacks, publishing an article titled “GAZA: 10/7 like 9/11, Was it a False Flag?”