Some of the biggest peddlers of misinformation about the Israel-Hamas war on Elon Musk’s X platform are premium, so-called “verified” accounts that pay the social media company formerly known as Twitter to promote their posts to boost visibility, a report released Thursday found.
Establishing the truth in any conflict can be difficult as competing sides push contradictory narratives — but some claims that are objectively and clearly false are still going viral and being seen millions of times by users of X, due in part to changes made to the platform by Musk, NewsGuard, an information analysis company, found.
NewsGuard identified seven accounts it describes as “misinformation superspreaders,” which have shared widely debunked claims about the conflict. All of the accounts, NewsGuard said, are taking advantage of changes made to X’s verification policy, which promotes posts from users who pay the company $8 a month. Verified users are also eligible to receive payments from the platform, financially incentivizing posts from the users who are actively spreading misinformation.
Some of the most widely shared myths on X about the war, according to NewsGuard, include videos from previous, unrelated conflicts, which are recycled and used to make false claims about Israel and Hamas (CNN has also debunked some of these videos).
NewsGuard said it analyzed 250 of the most engaged-with posts from the first week of the conflict that promoted some of the most common false or unsubstantial claims about the conflict.
“Collectively, posts advancing these myths received 1,349,979 engagements and were cumulatively viewed by more than 100 million times globally in just one week,” NewsGuard said in Thursday’s report. The group said 186 of the 250 posts were sent by premium X accounts. CNN has not been able to independently verify the data and has asked NewsGuard to provide its supporting information.
Soon after NewsGuard published its report Thursday, Musk posted on X that the company “should be disbanded immediately.” CNN has reached out to X and Musk for further comment.
The European Union last week opened an investigation into X over the spread of disinformation and illegal content on the platform related to the Israel-Hamas war.
X CEO Linda Yaccarino said in a letter to the EU last week that the company had “redistributed resources and refocused internal teams who are working around the clock to address this rapidly evolving situation.”
The EU recently enacted new laws governing illegal content and disinformation on major social media platforms. The EU has formally asked X rivals Meta and TikTok for more information on the work they are doing to remove potentially violative content, but the bloc has not opened an investigation into either company.
Blue verified check marks were previously an indication that X had verified that the person or organization behind an account were who they said they were. But Musk changed the policy earlier this year to eliminate the verification process and make the blue badge available to virtually anyone willing to pay an $8 monthly subscription for X Premium. X also prioritizes posts from paying users, meaning they are likely to be seen by more people.
In May, there was a brief dip in the stock market after verified accounts on X shared fake images of a purported “explosion” near the Pentagon.