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MANILA, Philippines – NewsGuard, a website providing tools and analysis to counter disinformation, released a report on October 19 saying “verified” accounts on X are superspreaders of disinformation about the Israel-Hamas war.
For a modest fee, users on X can pay to be verified on the platform, though without any formal vetting to ensure the users aren’t accounts used to spread spam, hate, or as in this case, disinformation or propaganda.
According to a NewsGuard analysis done from October 7 to 14, of the 250 most-engaged posts promoting one of 10 prominent false or unsubstantiated narratives about the war, 186 of the 250 posts – or 74% – were posted by verified X accounts.
NewsGuard listed the following false or unsubstantiated claims, which were shared by verified X accounts:
- Ukraine sold weapons to Hamas
- Israel has killed 33,000 Palestinian children since 2008
- A video shows Israeli or Palestinian children in cages
- A video shows Israeli senior officials captured by Hamas
- The Saint Porphyrios Orthodox Church in Gaza was destroyed by Israeli bombing
- A video shows Hamas fighters celebrating the abduction of an Israeli toddler
- CNN staged footage of its news crew under attack in Israel
- A White House memo shows that the US approved $8 billion in aid for Israel
- Israel staged footage showing the death of a child killed by a Hamas strike
- The Hamas terrorist attack was a “false flag” carried out by Israel or the West
The report also said posts advancing these falsehoods received 1,349,979 engagements, and were cumulatively viewed over 100 million times globally in a week.
Technology Transparency Project (TTP) director Katie Paul, as quoted by NBC News, has also said that verified accounts enjoy “prioritized rankings in conversations and search” allowing for further spread of propaganda.
While the report mentions other social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, Telegram, and Facebook, which also have troubles with curbing disinformation about the Israel-Hamas war in much the same way, X was notable because it had downsized its moderation team – among other roles at the company – after Elon Musk bought Twitter last year.
Said NewsGuard, X is “the only platform that has been public about the reduction in its moderation efforts.”
It was, instead, counting on its “Community Notes” system to get the job done. The report noted that only 79 of the 250 disinformation posts – or about 32% – were flagged with a community note, however.
According to NewsGuard’s methodology, the results may actually be worse due to a caveat. The report’s authors write, “It is important to note that X Premium subscribers have the option to ‘hide’ the checkmark signifying that they are verified. As a result, it is possible that NewsGuard’s analysis of X Premium accounts undercounts the minimum total, as some premium users may have opted to hide their checkmark.”
More information regarding the claims NewsGuard studied can be read in the report, available here. – Rappler.com