X's Blue Checkmarks Fueled Spread of Misinformation During Gaza-Israel Conflict

In a surprising twist, X's blue checkmark accounts, once a symbol of influence and credibility, have been accused of fueling the spread of misinformation during the Israel-Palestine war, according to a recent study by NewsGuard. These verified users were found to be behind a whopping 74 percent of the viral misinformation shared on the platform.

The study, which analyzed the 250 most viral X (Twitter) posts promoting false or unverified information related to the conflict, uncovered a troubling trend. False narratives, including claims of CNN staging footage and videos from either (Israel or Palestine) depicting children in cages, "Israel has killed 33,000 Palestinian children since 2008", were among the most shared. Over the course of a week, these posts received an astonishing 1,349,979 interactions and were viewed globally more than 100 million times.

NewsGuard points out that Twitter's algorithm, which promotes verified accounts, played a pivotal role in the rapid spread of these claims. This algorithmic boost combined with the easy acquisition of blue checkmarks, available to anyone willing to pay $8 per month, contributed to the problem.

Interestingly, even with Elon Musk's promotion of Twitter as a platform for street news reporter and the touted Community Notes feature for fact-checking, the study found that only 79 out of the 250 posts (i.e. around 31 percent) were flagged for misinformation. In essence, Twitter's efforts to correct false information fell short, leaving a significant portion unchecked.
Notably, the issue of misinformation isn't limited to Twitter alone. It also extends to platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Telegram. However, Twitter seemed to serve as the launching pad for these false narratives, which then spread to other social networking outlets.

This problem hasn't gone unnoticed by regulators either. The European Union has recently initiated an investigation into Twitter to ensure it complies with the Digital Services Act amid concerns about the spread of illegal content and disinformation.

In conclusion, while Twitter may have aimed to democratize information sharing, the easy verification of accounts and the viral nature of false information reveal that there is still much work to be done in curbing the spread of misinformation on social media platforms.

Photo: DIW

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