Israel-Hamas war: The war on truth

Security consultant Shashi Jayakumar, commenting on the images said “clearly someone has been fairly creative”.

According to scientist Serene Koh, who directs The Behavioural Insights Team in Singapore, it is the most contentious, bloody or shocking images like those caged children that gain traction the fastest and for the longest time.

Take the hashtag #pallywood, an amalgam of Hollywood and Palestine. The hashtag appears on videos that allege that Hamas is using Palestinian actors to stage images of casualties implying that stories of Palestinian suffering are faked or exaggerated.

But as Shashi Jayakumar discovered, one such video dates back to 2013 and was filmed in Egypt.

Other videos using the same hashtag have been widely circulated to apparently show children taking a break from playing dead.

One particular video with that allegation was shot in Thailand during Halloween. There are many other examples that manipulate images to insinuate that Palestinian suffering is fake.

In these cases, the technology is basic. But even more troubling are fake events created by highly sophisticated video game software.

Gaming technology has been used to fake images of Iranian fighters attacking an Israeli ship, and the video was then uploaded on YouTube. The same technology was used to manufacture a story of American soldiers fighting in Gaza.

It exploits difficulty in distinguishing between real-world footage and war games.

Another complication is the threat of artificial intelligence when it is misused to manipulate media. Remember supermodel Bella Hadid and her speech about how the tragedy of October 7 “opened her eyes to pain” and where she says “I stand with Israel against terror”?

Her passionate statement was thought to be striking because her family is part-Palestinian. As it turned out, she had said no such thing.

Instead, someone had used deepfake technology to manipulate a speech Hadid made in 2016 about growing up with Lyme Disease.  And there are many other examples of manipulated media used to push misinformation.

Oftentimes, these are malicious and upset more than individuals and their families. Manipulating the truth on social media can humiliate, shame and denigrate. When conflict consumes societies and nations, the danger proliferates.

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