Fact-checking social media posts amid Israel-Hamas war

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – In today’s world, a simple scroll online can display dozens of videos, with tens of thousands of shares.

Think about the current war in Israel and Palestine. Take a moment to reflect on how many images, videos and statistics you’ve seen on your social media platforms, in the past few weeks alone.

It seems like the more violent something is, the more shares it gets.

According to NBC News, in the days after Hamas attacks on October 7, researchers flagged dozens of accounts on X, formerly known as Twitter. The accounts were pushing disinformation relating to war, and Hamas had premium accounts to spread propaganda videos.

The question is, how do we fact check?

Professor Jiang Tao Gu teaches media and society courses at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He said it’s okay to have opinions, but it’s important to be a critical thinker. Check the account that’s sharing the media first, before clicking the link.

In today’s world, we’re also hearing a lot more from influencers and celebrities, which can make it hard to know what information to trust.

Professor Sarah Heidebrink-Bruno teaches humanities at Finger Lakes Community College, and said it’s important to go through a checklist when vetting a post.

Ask yourself, where the media came from, what motivated the message, and is there any bias? What are the credentials, if any?

“With those kinds of platforms [Twitter, YouTube], anyone can say anything, and it’s not necessarily going through a vetting process,” said Heidebrink-Bruno. “Obviously if something gets flagged and taken down in an extreme case, then you know that it’s not credible. But for the most part, you can consume any perspective from anyone.”

Gu said often times, students will get their news intake just by scrolling. His advice for them: Instead of passively scrolling, designate a time in the day to actively seek info on a topic. Find a reputable source that shows different perspectives.

Also, be careful about images. Are dates accurate? Is the context accurate?

“One thing I found really helpful is to actually do a reverse image search,” said Gu. “There are a lot of search engines online that you can do that, download the image, take a screenshot, and then upload that into the reverse search engine, and see — does the image appear elsewhere? It could be that an old image from decades ago is being recycled to illustrate a current event.”