A doctored White House news release posted online falsely claimed that the Biden administration had authorized $8 billion in emergency aid to Israel on Saturday. The fact that it was faked didn't stop it from being posted across the internet and rising to the top of Google search results.
The faked document is one of the most far-reaching instances of misinformation to come out of the most recent violent conflict between Hamas and Israel. It fooled several online publications into writing full articles about the fake news, which are still surfacing prominently in online search results.
The faked document appears to be an edited version of President Joe Biden's July memo announcing $400 million in aid to Ukraine. Even though images of the faked document appeared on social media, it was never published on the White House website or in the government's Federal Register of federal documents. After this article was first published, a White House representative confirmed that the document was fake.
The faked document first started appearing on social media accounts Saturday morning. Around noon Saturday, a collection of verified accounts on X, formerly Twitter, began disseminating it. Verified accounts are eligible for monetization on the platform.
Posts sharing the faked document and its claims, many of which are still up, have accrued hundreds of thousands of views on the platform.
Several of the posts on X now have "community notes" attached to them clarifying that the document is fake, but many more posts that are still up have no such clarification.
Under Elon Musk's ownership, Twitter has scaled back its operations that would have tried to moderate misinformation on the platform.
As the fake release spread on X, it was reposted to other social media websites like TikTok, but on a much smaller scale. X didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Google and other search engines, it's easy to find fake news articles that seemed to have been written after the fake release was published.
In searching for information about Biden administration aid to Israel, one of the first results Google surfaces is a false article from a Mumbai-based publication called First Post. The article appeared in the "Top stories" module on Google alongside articles by Axios and The Wall Street Journal. Without citing a source, "FP Staff" claimed in the article that Biden approved an $8 billion aid package to Israel. Another publication, called OneIndia, also published an article echoing the fake information. The publications didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The fake news and the doctored document appear to have been built on reporting Saturday that signaled that the Biden administration would announce financial aid to Israel in the coming days.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Saturday that the military would "work to ensure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself," according to The Wall Street Journal.
In a speech, Biden told viewers that “the U.S. stands with the people of Israel.”
For 2023, Congress appropriated $3.8 billion in funding for Israel, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. The report found that in its entire history, the U.S. has given $158 billion in assistance to Israel.