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A group of 67 X accounts spread coordinated disinformation about Israel-Hamas war, says research group

Combined, the accounts’ misleading posts and videos have had millions of views.
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Researchers have uncovered a propaganda network of 67 accounts on the X social platform that are coordinating a campaign of posting false, inflammatory content related to the Israel-Hamas war.

While such information has proliferated on X after Saturday’s attack, the research is believed to be the first concrete evidence that deliberate propaganda to mislead people about the conflict has gone unchecked on the platform. Combined, the accounts’ misleading posts and videos have millions of views.

The accounts — many of which previously focused on more innocuous topics like professional basketball or life in Japan — previously showed no outward association, but suddenly began posting similar content over the weekend as news of the attacks broke, according to Alethea, a company that analyzes social media.

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In many cases, the accounts would post the exact same phrases. It’s not clear if the accounts were created for the express purpose of posting the misinformation, or if they were hacked or sold.

One of the posts with fake information identified by Alethea.
One of the posts with fake information identified by Alethea.

After NBC News emailed X, formerly known as Twitter, for comment Tuesday, the company began suspending some of the accounts, though others are still visible. The company responded with an automated message: “Busy now, please check back later.”

In addition to generally inflammatory content around the conflict, most of the accounts posted at least one of two misleading videos. Both of the videos take footage of Russian government officials speaking in Russian and overlay inaccurate English subtitles to falsely indicate that the officials said they wanted to escalate military conflict in Israel. Alethea declined to attribute the videos to a particular country or intelligence operation.

One video is a clip from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s speech to the United Nations in January, in which he complained about right-wing commentator Tucker Carlson not being on Fox News anymore. The other is Russian President Vladimir Putin saying in January that while the global threat of nuclear war was growing, Russia would not launch a nuclear weapon first.

The videos posted by the X accounts, however, overlaid those clips with captions that made both men seem to threaten the U.S. with overt military support for the Palestinians. 

X has been inundated with viral posts with false information about the conflict. Under the leadership of Elon Musk, who bought the company last year, the definition of a “verified” user changed from an established person or organization to someone who pays for a subscription. At least one of the videos was posted by a verified account.

Musk has also repeatedly made cuts to teams that curb disinformation, including one four-person unit in Dublin last month.