In a new report, The New York Times reveals that violent content seeded by Hamas has spread on X and Telegram in an apparent effort to “terrorize civilians and take advantage of the lack of content moderation” on these platforms.
After Hamas attacked Israel last weekend, misinformation about the conflict proliferated on Elon Musk’s X (formerly Twitter), with verified accounts earning millions of views on posts that spread misleading videos, a doctored photo, and other misinformation. Notably, Musk himself recommended that X users looking for news about “the war in real-time” should follow two accounts that are “notorious for promoting lies.”
The October 10 report from the Times’ Sheera Frenkel and Steven Lee Myers reveals additional failures of the platform amid the ongoing crisis:
Since Hamas launched a deadly cross-border attack into Israel over the weekend, violent videos and graphic images have flooded social media. Many of the posts have been seeded by Hamas to terrorize civilians and take advantage of the lack of content moderation on some social media sites — particularly X and Telegram — according to a Hamas official and social media experts interviewed by The New York Times.
The strategy mirrors efforts by extremist groups like the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, which took advantage of the lack of guardrails at social media companies years ago to upload graphic footage to the internet. Social media companies reacted then by removing and banning accounts tied to those groups.
The issue has sprouted anew in the past week, particularly on X, where safety and content moderation teams have largely disbanded under Elon Musk’s ownership, and on Telegram, the messaging platform which does virtually no content moderation.
The effect of the videos has been stark. Some Israelis have begun avoiding social media for fear of seeing missing loved ones featured in graphic footage.
X has plunged into chaos under Musk’s leadership, transforming the platform into a steady source of harmful content. In the past month alone, X has placed ads for the NFL on prominent white nationalist accounts, its internal reporting system repeatedly responded that posts claiming “Hitler was right” and that there needs to be a “final solution” for Jewish people didn't violate the platform’s safety policies, and X displayed ads for major brands on the account of a white nationalist who has endorsed the killings of politicians and LGBTQ advocates.