The High Cost Of Misinformation For Brands, Publishers, Platforms

Misinformation across news publishers and social media has fueled protests and riots worldwide, which continue even after Israel and the U.S. released documentation that the attack on the Gaza hospital this week came from Islamic Jihad — a smaller, more radical Palestinian militant group that works with Hamas — via a misfired missile within the Gaza Strip. Reports later said that the missile hit the parking lot of the hospital. 

The lack of vetting for news indexed in search engines and streaming through social-media news feeds has compounded the chaos. Much of the misinformation has come before it could be verified. News outlets like CNN, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times retracted poorly vetted parts of stories that originated and went viral on social media.



Brands running ads or marketing content across these platforms will need to consider another keyword — war — to use when excluding content to appear adjacent to. Misinformation can damage the loyalty and trust of consumers. 

Social media X users, who now must pay to be “Verified” to have a blue checkmark, pushed 74% of the most viral false Israel-Hamas claims, according to NewsGuard analysis.

The analysis no doubt considered posts like the one from U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib. The news broke as Tlaib shared it on X, accusing Israel of bombing the hospital. 

Tlaib, along with some media outlets, took the word of Gaza's Health Ministry, which is controlled by Hamas, with reports of 500 dead due to an Israeli airstrike.

Hours later, Tlaib spoke at a gathering where hundreds of pro-Palestinian protestors were arrested for staging demonstrations at the U.S. Capitol after being told that Israel bombed a hospital in Gaza, although U.S. President Biden had announced that the deaths and destruction at the Gaza hospital was caused by Palestinian rockets.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, argues, “it is mind-boggling that the media
presented claims from terrorist groups and assigned blame on Israel, without question.”

Headlines have since changed, but the damage is done, prompting riots worldwide in which protesters accuse Israel and the U.S. of killing hundreds of innocent people. Posts like one from a leading news publisher still report that the "Hamas-run Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip says at least 500 have been killed in an explosion that it says was caused by an Israeli airstrike."

During the first week of the conflict between October 7 and October 14, NewsGuard analyzed the 250 most-engaged posts -- likes, reposts, replies, and bookmarks -- promoting one of 10 false or unsubstantiated narratives relating to the war. Seventy-four percent -- 186 out of the 250 posts -- were posted by accounts verified by X, according to NewsGuard analysis.   

Collectively, posts advancing misinformation received 1,349,979 engagements and were cumulatively viewed by more than 100 million times globally in just one week. Posts are indexed in Google Search and Bing.

It seems some X posts are being blocked from indexing in Bing. X blocked Google from indexing its posts in July, and then reversed the decision. 

NewsGuard said it also identified false or unsubstantiated information related to the war spreading on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Telegram, and elsewhere. 

Disinformation about the Israel-Hamas war shows why advertisers and brands need content moderation.

YouTube on Wednesday introduced a watch page to help users get information from “authoritative” news sources like its Top News and Breaking News shelves. 

Google’s video site did not mention misinformation and the war, but rather cited being “committed to connecting people to high-quality information they can trust, particularly in times of elections, unrest, and natural disasters.”

The content is dynamic, relying on algorithms rather than people to curate the information. The page will pull together long-form video, live streams, podcasts, and Shorts on news stories on one page.

To open the watch page for a specific news topic, users need to click on a video with the newspaper icon on the home page or in search results. This feature will roll out on mobile devices in approximately 40 countries, with desktop and living-room integration to come.

The goal is to provide an updated news experience to help readers access credible and diverse voices.

Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that owns 65 daily newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun, has taken a stand on the use of terminology. All of its publications ran editorials on Wednesday, calling on news media to describe
Hamas as a terrorist organization and the Oct. 7 assault as a terrorist attack, Axios reports.

Media Daily News reached out to Gannett to determine what the publisher is doing to ensure that teams working with marketers ensure that targeting aligns with their message, but the publisher did not respond by the time of publication.

UPDATE:  This story was updated with additional reporting by Ray Schultz. 

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