Israel-Gaza conflict: Social media becomes the latest battleground in Middle East aggression – but beware of propaganda and misinformation

Some of the pictures of violence circulated on the #gazaunderattack thread have been found to be recycled images from as long ago as 2007

Media Editor

The Twitter hashtag #gazaunderattack, which emerged as Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against the Palestinian territory earlier this month, was founded on the presumption that news media are failing to report the story.

Graphic violent images of civilians under fire were posted in large numbers, suggesting that news organisations were turning a blind eye to the attacks. “The media are not reporting anything,” was the hashtag’s catch line.

But social media, especially in its treatment the Middle East, has become a minefield of propaganda and misinformation.

Analysis by Abdirahim Saeed of BBC Arabic found that some of the pictures of violence circulated on the #gazaunderattack thread were recycled images from as long ago as 2007. Some were not even from Gaza at all but showed events from the ongoing conflict in Syria. Many of the pictures have since been widely distributed as the subjects of thousands of retweets.

 

“I didn’t expect to get over 1800 retweets, I didn’t actually know that the picture was recycled,” one 16-year-old Twitter user told the BBC. “People don’t need to take it as a literal account. If you think of bombs going off, that’s pretty much what it looks like.”

READ MORE: Three Israelis admit burning Gaza teenager to death
EU pushes for ceasefire but Israelis back Netanyahu
Palestinian families return home in defiance of threats

Chris Hamilton, social media editor at the BBC, said media organisations were having to use reverse image search facilities – which show if a photo has previously been published online - to determine the provenance of pictures.

“There are so many images and video of attacks and explosions and people stumbling from the wreckage of buildings,” he said. “When you talk about verification people think of fakes and hoaxes but actually what we are seeing a lot now is images or video that’s real but is not from the incident that it’s purported to be.”

READ MORE: Military drone from Gaza shot down over Israel
Middle East debate is more about fashion for revolutionary tourism than real politics

Social media has become one of the weapons of war. The Israeli Defence Force, which has been on Twitter since 2009, now has 286,000 followers. During violence in 2012, the Hamas military wing set up its own @AlqassamBrigade account to trade threats with the IDF. Twitter shut the account down earlier this year but the nature of social media means that the propaganda war is open to everybody and sources of information are increasingly difficult to determine.

Video: Israeli air strikes have killed 177 lives so far

In the student union of a private university in the Israeli coastal city of Herzliya, a “Hasbara war room” has been set up as a contribution to the military effort. Hasbara literally means “explanation” but has also come to signify propaganda. Up to 400 students sit at banks of computers getting Israel’s message out online. “The goal is to deliver a very clear message to people abroad – Israel has the right to defend itself,” Lidor Bar David told Israeli news website, Ynet.

“Although they haven’t been called up to the army yet, they’ve decided to enlist in a civilian mission that is no less important,” reported Ynet.

The students – speaking in 30 languages – target online forums while aiming to appear as ordinary social media users. They lobby Facebook to take down pages which incite violence against Israel and circulate drawings of Hamas rockets made by traumatised Israeli children living close to Gaza.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee