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26 Okt 2023

Todd Spangler, Variety,

X premium subscribers allegedly posted the most viral misinformation about the Israel-Gaza conflict, a study says

"X/Twitter Verified Blue Check-Mark Users Are ‘Superspreaders’ of Disinformation About Israel-Hamas War, Study Says", 20 October 2023

On X — the social network formerly called Twitter — about 74% of the most-viral posts promoting misinformation about the Israel-Hamas war in the first week of the conflict were shared by verified blue check-mark accounts, according to a new study.

For the first seven days following Hamas’ deadly terrorist attack on Israeli civilians (Oct. 7-14), NewsGuard, a company that maintains a system rating the credibility of news and information websites, analyzed the 250 most-engaged posts on X/Twitter that promoted 10 “prominent false or unsubstantiated narratives” relating to the conflict. According to the NewsGuard analysis, 186 of the 250 posts (74%) were posted by accounts verified by X. Collectively, the posts in the analysis advancing false or unsubstantiated information received about 1.35 million engagements and were cumulatively viewed more than 100 million times in the one-week period, according to NewsGuard.

Under Elon Musk’s revamped blue check-mark verification program, users of X Premium (which costs $8 per month) are able to get verified status, which under Twitter’s previous regime was intended to signal authentic and reliable accounts. Currently, posts from X Premium users are prioritized by the platform’s algorithm so they appear more prominently in users’ feeds. “That decision turned out to be a boon for bad actors sharing misinformation about the Israel-Hamas War,” NewsGuard said in its study.

A request for comment about the NewsGuard study sent to X’s PR email account returned an autoreply message that said, “Busy now, please check back later.”

NewsGuard said it has also identified false or unsubstantiated narratives relating to the war “spreading widely on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Telegram and elsewhere.” But the company said it chose to focus on X “because it appears to be the only platform that has been public about the reduction in its moderation efforts” and that it found that “most of the false narratives relating to the Israel-Hamas War so far appear to go viral on X before they spread to other platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.”

NewsGuard said its analysis of posts related to the Israel-Hamas war may undercount X Premium accounts, given that the platform recently introduced a feature that lets subscribers hide their blue check mark.

New York-based NewsGuard says it provides “a human solution to misinformation by rating the reliability of news and information sites.” The firm’s ratings, on a scale of zero to 100, are based on “nine objective journalistic criteria” and “give people more context for what they read online.”