Fake news stories can have severe implications.
Earlier this year, Patrick Leahy, the senior member of the U.S. Senate, demanded an investigation into attacks by Israeli security forces on Palestinians. He cited a few specific cases, including that of Ahmed Manasra.
Manasra was the subject of many stories circulating on the internet. He was a Palestinian teenager whom Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas claimed was killed “in cold blood” by Israeli settlers.
But like many “news” stories about Israel, it wasn’t true. The boy was alive. He has been saved by Israeli paramedics after committing a terror attack. This information was readily available as a video of the boy resting in an Israeli hospital was circulating on the internet along with video of the terror attack he had committed.
When Abbas made his false claims about Manasara, many of the major news companies covering the story reported it as “Israel Accuses Abbas of Lying” rather than using their own voice to tell readers that the story was fabricated.
The New York Times story gives readers the impression that the issue of whether the boy was alive was up for debate.
Israel has accused the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, of lying about a video of a 13-year-old Arab boy bleeding profusely on an East Jerusalem street on Monday that has provoked outrage in the Arab world.
Strangely, it was one of the Times’ tabloid competitors, the New York Post, that got the story right.
Whenever Israel tries to respond to an accusation — even with evidence — many people will not believe it. After all, Israel is hardly a disinterested partner.
There are many more examples of how fake news stories are used as a weapon against Israel.
Faking the News
Ample proof shows that Palestinians have staged major news stories. These fake news productions are so common that they are referred to as “Pallywood.” Google the word if you want to see just how bad the problem is. Yet why don’t news companies like “60 Minutes” investigate before using the footage?
Remember when Hamas claimed that Israel had opened up dams and flooded the Gaza Strip? As I wrote at the time, all it would have taken was a few minutes and a Google search to see that the dams in question did not exist.
The Media Wake Up
Now, the media are waking up to the impact that fake news stories can have.
Because many news companies believe that fake news stories attacking Hillary Clinton are responsible for the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election.
So suddenly, everyone is talking about how important it is to stop the spread of false news reports.
Almost every day in November, the New York Times has published an article on fake news, along with an editorial decrying the phenomenon.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg posted how seriously the social media giant takes its responsibility to stop the spread of fake news. Google announced that it would ban websites that promote false stories from using its advertising tools.
President Obama claimed that fake news is such a problem that it “threatens our democracy.” In a major speech in Germany, he said:
If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not — and particularly in an age of social media where so many people are getting their information in soundbites and snippets off their phones — if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.
Great. It’s about time that something was done so that the public would be able to tell fact from fiction in the news.
But why should bogus articles about Hillary Clinton be given attention while false accusations about Israel are ignored?
I am not one to demand that every article about Israel support Israeli claims. But it is reasonable to expect that the media conduct impartial investigations themselves so that they can present readers with the facts.
When a U.S. Senator calls for a review of aid to Israel because of a false news story, the damage has already been done.
Read more at CAMCI, The Center for Analyzing Media Coverage of Israel.