The moment on October 7 when Hamas militants violated the fortified border of Israel on a mission of sowing violence and chaos, it was only inevitable that disparate opinions would infiltrate the 24-hour news cycle with click-bait headlines and stories based on conjecture rather than fact. Social media giant X -formerly Twitter- took action Tuesday by stripping the New York Times of its coveted gold “Verified” badge. Spokespersons from X made no effort to explain the move, but it comes amidst a rapid increase in backlash against pro-Hamas stories.
Shortly after removing the badge, X replaced it with a blue check, a symbol that identifies a feed as a paid subscriber. Gold “verified” badges denote an account that is deemed to be trustworthy. By removing the verified badge, X has made it more difficult for consumers to distinguish between authentic New York Times posts and imposters.
#WJAM @cspanwj NEVER use @nytimes articles again after It lied about #Hamas hospital attack, has it's gold media Verification Badge Removed forcing NYT to pay $8 for blue badge & NYT #LIAR's rehired Sulaiman Hejji praised Adolf Hitler on social media👎https://t.co/CNq212YjVq…
— Kenn Weeks (@KennRWeeks) October 21, 2023
The feud between CEO Elon Musk and the New York Times has been ongoing for years, dating at least to the COVID-19 pandemic and coverage by the paper of Musk’s buy-out of the social media platform. The European Union recently established a framework to control the spread of false information online through the for-profit company NewsGuard.
Earlier this week, Musk called NewsGuard a “scam” and called into question the methods the company uses to screen news sources for fake news. A lack of accountability by NewsGuard casts doubt over the efficacy of the processes the company uses due to the for-profit basis of the company.
NewsGuard stated that “verified” accounts on X are in fact “superspreaders of misinformation.” The company claims that 74% of the news stories about the Israeli-Hamas war posted by blue check subscribers on X make “unsubstantiated claims.”
During a visit to Israel by President Joe Biden, news broke that a Gaza hospital had been destroyed, resulting in significant deaths. Initially, many news agencies took to X, claiming that the hospital had been destroyed by an Israeli airstrike which had resulted in 471 deaths.
Biden said during his speech to Israeli officials that the U.S. had determined the missile was not Israeli. In the coming days, evidence surfaced that the rocket was in fact a Hamas-fired weapon that accidentally damaged the hospital. Outside observers believe the death toll from the accident to be somewhere between 10 and 50 people, much lower than the numbers provided by Hamas.
The result of the spread of misinformation on this one topic has been massive protests across the globe. Dozens of governments immediately moved to condemn Israel and to increase calls for an internationally-enforced ceasefire to prevent Israel from continuing a campaign of retribution for the terrorist attacks committed by Hamas.
Even as the reality on the ground has shown that it is more likely that a misfired Hamas rocket hit a Gaza hospital, the spread of misinformation has fueled speculation that Israel must be condemned for the accident.
By removing the gold badge, X is signaling to readers that information provided by the New York Times is unreliable at best and probably fake news. As the war in Ukraine continues and each hour that passes increases the likelihood of a broad, regional war in the Middle East, the spread of lies and misinformation will only increase. Removing the power of one organization to control the narrative gives the average American a better chance to make their own decisions.