Adolescents face difficulties in recognizing false information regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict, which has been dubbed the second "social media war" in the world.

Adolescents face difficulties in recognizing false information regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict, which has been dubbed the second “social media war” in the world.

Decimated neighborhoods. Injured children. Terrorized festivalgoers running for their lives. Since the brutal

Conflict between the nations of Israel and Hamas.
For the past three months, Maddy Miller, a 17-year-old senior at a high school in Dallas, Texas, has been struggling to understand the disturbing images that she sees on her phone every day.

According to Miller, when he opens TikTok or Instagram, he often sees videos from inside Israel or Palestine. It can be overwhelming to determine what is true and what is false, so he takes a break to carefully understand the situation for about 10 minutes.

In February 2022, the war in Ukraine

The ongoing conflict in the Middle East is now being documented through social media platforms such as Tik Tok and Instagram. According to a Deloitte survey, 51% of younger Gen Z teens receive their news from these sources, making it the second war to be portrayed through vivid and personal videos. However, this also means that misinformation and disinformation are spreading rapidly, even to American teens like Miller.

A study conducted at Stanford University revealed that even tech-savvy teenagers are susceptible to being fooled by fake videos.

Wineberg and Breakstone conducted a study to assess the accuracy of high school students in detecting false information on social media. They selected a sample of over 3,000 students, representing the diversity of the U.S. population, and tasked them with determining the authenticity of an anonymous video.

According to Breakstone, the video was said to demonstrate instances of voter fraud in the US. However, a simple online search would reveal that it actually depicted voter fraud in Russia. Out of the 3,000+ students, only three were able to find this connection, which is less than 0.1%.

The experiment 

A recent investigation by CBS News uncovered the alarming rate at which false information is being shared on social media among teenagers. As part of their experiment, a group of reporters created three separate profiles on Instagram and TikTok.

One account searched for basic terms related to Israel, another searched for basic terms related to Palestine, and the last account searched for both. Each username also followed multiple accounts with over 1,000 followers and “liked” a few posts from each one.

Initially, the fake teenage profiles were receiving conventional adolescent material such as content about preparing for high school and makeup demonstrations on TikTok and Instagram. However, the algorithms also factored in the searches. Shortly after the search queries were inputted, the feed was inundated with content related to war, including false information.


A video that has been widely discredited showed an individual, who alleged to be an employee at a Gaza hospital, making claims that Hamas had taken control of the facility.


A video that has been widely discredited features an individual, who purportedly works at a Gaza hospital, making the false claim that Hamas had taken over the facility. The individual also claimed to have operated on a child without access to morphine. Further investigation revealed that the video was staged and the explosions were artificially created. Additionally, a separate video that has since been disproven depicted an Iranian warplane supposedly landing on an Israeli aircraft carrier.

Dan Evon from the News Literacy Project, an unbiased organization promoting media literacy in schools, described it as resembling a video game.

Evon has dedicated his professional life to differentiating between truth and falsehood on social media. He also educates young individuals on how to recognize mis- and disinformation. A crucial aspect of his teaching is what he refers to as “pre-bunking”: providing them with the necessary skills to identify false information before they are deceived by it.

Evon advised to consistently take the same advice of slowing down. She emphasized the importance of seeking authenticity, identifying the source, finding evidence, considering reasoning, and understanding the context.

“More dangerous paths”

From the highly publicized resignation “From the president of the University of Pennsylvania to student walkouts in San Francisco and New York City, the war has undoubtedly caused a tense atmosphere in schools throughout the country. There have been numerous accounts of…”

Threats that are hostile towards Jewish and Islamic people.

The levels of aggression and physical force have greatly increased.

A student expressed that it does not seem like we are in the year 2023, but rather living in Nazi Germany.

According to experts such as Evon, Breakstone, and Wineberg, false or deceptive information can further escalate the already contentious discussions surrounding this conflict.

Evon stated that when individuals are shaping their perspectives on the world, false allegations can distort them and lead them down harmful paths.

The students of Highland Park High School are in agreement.

Miller expressed concern about the potential dangers of not actively seeking accurate information. They also expressed hope that individuals in their generation will take steps towards becoming better informed on various issues.

Response from TikTok

CBS News spoke with representatives from TikTok about the results of the experiment. Once the team provided the company with links to instances of false information, those posts were taken down.

A representative from TikTok stated that they are constantly striving to eliminate harmful false information and have joined forces with unbiased fact-checkers who evaluate the credibility of material in over 50 languages. They have taken down over 131,000 videos containing misinformation since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas conflict and redirect those searching for related content to Reuters.

Representatives from TikTok also stated:

  • Our Community Guidelines are clear that we do not allow inaccurate, misleading, or false content that may cause significant harm to individuals or society, regardless of intent. We reviewed content sent to us by CBS and have removed those that violate our policies.
  • We employ a blend of technological tools and human oversight to uphold these guidelines. We thoroughly evaluate content at various points, such as upon initial upload, when it is reported to us, and as it gains traction.

  • We have a team of more than 40,000 skilled individuals who are committed to ensuring TikTok’s safety. In addition, we collaborate with external fact-checking partners and refer to our database of previously verified information to verify the accuracy of content. Our network consists of 17 global fact-checking partners, who collectively cover over 50 languages.

  • We grant access to reliable information at the highest level of search results in order to present accurate facts. For instance, searching for “Israel” on TikTok will lead users to resources from Reuters.

Meta’s reply regarding Instagram

According to a spokesperson from Meta, we have implemented a three-pronged approach to combat the spread of misinformation. This includes removing content that goes against our Community Standards, limiting the reach of stories that have been deemed false by third-party fact-checkers, and labeling content to help individuals make informed decisions about what to read, trust, and share.

The representative from Meta also stated:

  • We collaborate with independent fact-checkers in the area to disprove untrue statements. Meta has the most extensive network of third-party fact checkers compared to other platforms, including Arabic and Hebrew coverage through AFP, Reuters, and Fatabyyano. If they determine something to be false, we decrease its visibility in Feed to limit its reach.

  • We understand the significance of quickness during times like these, therefore we have simplified the process for fact-checkers to locate and evaluate content pertaining to the war. This is achieved through the use of keyword detection to gather related content in a single location.

  • We are providing individuals with additional information to help them make informed decisions about what to read, believe, and share. This includes implementing warning labels on content that has been deemed false by third-party fact-checkers and labeling media publishers that are controlled by state entities.