A new report by NewsGuard has revealed that a significant portion of viral posts spreading misinformation about the Israel – Hamas war on the X platform are being shared by verified accounts.
According to the misinformation monitor report published by the platform on October 19, 2023, 74 per cent of the most viral posts promoting false narratives about the conflict were traced back to “verified” X accounts (formerly Twitter).
In March 2023, X owner, Elon Musk, changed the verification policy, allowing users to pay $8 per month for a blue checkmark on their profile, granting their posts priority in users’ feeds.
In April 2023, NewsGuard reported that the “blue check” which was previously an indication of an account’s authenticity, has now become a tool for propagators of false information to present themselves as credible.
NewsGuard analyzed the top 250 posts during the first week of the conflict and discovered that 74 per cent of these posts were attributed to verified X accounts. These posts perpetuated ten false or unsubstantiated claims, collectively garnering over 1.3 million engagements and more than 100 million views globally within just one week.
Elon Musk has emphasized X’s crowdsourced fact-checking feature, “Community Notes,” in response to criticisms.
However, NewsGuard found that only 32% of the most prominent and harmful misinformation posts were flagged with Community Notes. Despite misinformation also spreading on other platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Telegram, NewsGuard chose to focus on X due to its public reduction in moderation efforts.
NewsGuard identified seven verified X accounts that spread at least two of the most widely shared myths about the war.
In terms of fact-checking, X’s reliance on Community Notes appeared inconsistent, with 68% of debunked misinformation posts lacking these notes. While some posts did have fact-checks, it varied significantly by the specific false claim indicating that reliance on crowdsourced fact-checking might not be sufficient to combat misinformation effectively.
“In an example of how X’s Community Notes feature can function properly, fact-checks appeared alongside 21 of the top 25 posts identified by NewsGuard as advancing the false claim that a video showed Hamas fighters with a kidnapped Israeli toddler.
“However, X attached a Community Note to only one of the top 25 posts advancing the unsubstantiated claim that Israel has killed 33,000 Palestinian children since 2008, and to just four of the top 25 posts promoting the false claim that a White House memo revealed the U.S. was sending $8 billion in military aid to Israel.”