How Elon Musk's Twitter failed to combat misinformation during Israel-Hamas war

Sweta Gupta
Sweta GuptaOct 12, 2023 | 18:03

How Elon Musk's Twitter failed to combat misinformation during Israel-Hamas war

Twitter changed its verification process, letting anyone with X Premium buy a blue checkmark for Rs 666 per month, regardless of their fame. (Photo Credits: Getty Images)

Elon Musk's Twitter faced significant challenges during the Israel-Hamas conflict when the platform became inundated with fake posts. Musk, in a stunning move, recommended war coverage from accounts known for making false claims or expressing antisemitic sentiments.


  • On October 7, the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, launched a major attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip. They breached the Gaza-Israel barrier, infiltrating Israeli settlements and military sites.
  • During crises, particularly conflicts, Twitter traditionally serves as a vital source of information, with professional journalists and eyewitnesses sharing real-time updates.
  • However, recent changes to Twitter's structure have made it increasingly challenging to comprehend unfolding conflicts.
  • The removal of content moderation teams has also allowed misinformation to proliferate during times of panic and confusion, effectively transforming Twitter into fertile ground for spreading false information.

The blue tick mishap

  • The once-revered blue checkmark on Twitter, a symbol of verified identity for notable individuals and organisations, has lost its significance.
  • Accounts, even those with blue checkmarks, are now disseminating misinformation, and the platform appears to favour posts from blue-checked users, irrespective of their accuracy.
  • This new approach has created a financial incentive for posting sensational content, even if it's false, as it can lead to financial rewards from X.
  • The verification process that once confirmed the legitimacy of users has been modified by Twitter, allowing anyone who subscribes to Twitter Blue (now X Premium) to purchase a blue checkmark for $8 per month, regardless of their notability.
  • This shift has resulted in confusion and eroded the platform's reliability.
  • Even European officials have raised concerns that the platform is hosting misinformation and illegal content regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict.
  • The warning suggests that changes made to the platform under Elon Musk's supervision, such as lowering the threshold for newsworthiness exceptions, have contributed to the problem.

Fake video unveiled by Bellingcat

  • Bellingcat, a group specializing in the investigation of news stories, uncovered a fake video on Tuesday.
  • This counterfeit video bore a striking resemblance to a BBC News report, but it was far from authentic.
  • The video claimed that Bellingcat had discovered evidence of Ukraine supplying weapons to Hamas, a claim devoid of truth.
  • The creators of the video sought to emulate BBC's video style, and it was shared on Telegram and by a verified account on X.
  • Although X didn't delete the fake video, they added a small label beneath it, indicating "manipulated media."

Misinformation about Amartya Sen's death

In a recent, similar case, false reports of the renowned economist Amartya Sen's death circulated following a fake social media post from an unrelated account.

Several prominent news outlets reported his death, relying on a social media post that appeared to be from Claudia Goldin, an economic historian.


However, it was later revealed that the post originated from a fake account created in May 2023 and had no genuine connection to Goldin. Amartya Sen's daughter later clarified the situation.

Changes in content presentation

Recently, X ceased displaying article headlines when links are shared. Now, users only see the image and website name. Musk made this change to achieve a cleaner look, but it has made it more challenging for news readers to comprehend the content.

Under Elon Musk's ownership since October 2022, X has instituted significant changes to its content safety rules. These changes have become glaringly evident during the current crisis. Over the past year, the company has relaxed its platform's rules, downsized its trust and safety staff despite prior promises to expand it, allowed previously banned accounts to return, and enabled users to purchase verification checkmarks.

While misinformation about the Israel-Palestine conflict is present on many social media platforms, X stands out because false posts have become increasingly difficult to avoid.

Last updated: October 12, 2023 | 18:03
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