Misinformation Crisis | God's World News

Misinformation in Media

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    X (formerly Twitter) faces accusations of promoting fake news about the Israel-Hamas war. (AP/Noah Berger)
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    Demonstrators rally in support of Israel in Bellevue, Washington. (AP/Lindsey Wasson)
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    Protesters wave the Palestine flag at a march in Toronto, Canada. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press via AP)
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On October 7, the Islamist terrorist group Hamas launched an all-out attack on Israel. Particularly gruesome was the extremists’ violence against not military targets but civilian citizens, including families. Israel responded by declaring war. Across the world, people turned to social media for the latest news. But on many platforms, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.

Some information experts claim X (formerly Twitter) actively promotes misinformation. Foreign policy expert Ian Bremmer says the amount of fake news about the conflict “is unlike anything I’ve ever been exposed to in my career as a political scientist.”

On X, users can find much real news about the Hamas attacks. But they can also find fake images and mislabeled videos of past incidents. Some posts show a fake memo from President Joe Biden, claiming that the United States will send billions of dollars to Israel. Other posts present a videogame clip as actual footage.

When billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk bought Twitter, he changed its name to X. He also changed the way posts work. Now users can pay for “verified accounts.” Their posts show up more often in the feeds of others—regardless of whether those posts contain truth.

Some government officials—such as the European Union’s digital enforcers—believe misinformation on social media poses a real threat. In the past, platforms such as Facebook have become breeding grounds for political violence.

EU officials sent Musk a warning letter. They claim X may be violating the rules of the EU’s recent digital regulations, which also cover subjects such as artificial intelligence. They sent a similar warning to Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta (which owns Facebook and Instagram).

But why does fake news go viral?

Most social media platforms use algorithms that favor interaction. If people “like” or comment on a post, that post travels farther. This keeps users on the platforms longer—which means more money from advertisers.

Which posts get the most interaction? Sadly, it often has little to do with truthfulness. If a post makes people feel surprised, scared, or angry, they will likely interact. Fake images and videos are crafted to prompt those emotions in response.

Tech leaders like Musk and Zuckerberg tout the importance of free speech. Musk uses “Community Notes” to regulate fake news. With Community Notes, X users make their own comments about the truthfulness of content. However, reporters at CBS News and CNN note that many false posts on X have not been debunked or were debunked only after hundreds or thousands of people had already viewed them.

Who gets to decide what counts as “misinformation”? And how much should tech companies regulate speech? Today’s industry leaders and government regulators face these tough questions. But when the facts get confusing, we have a God of truth. His word gives us a steady foundation amidst ever-changing news.

The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. — Psalm 119:160