Explanation: Advocating for truth during the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza.
Dangerous misinformation regarding the current conflict following the 7 October attacks by Hamas on Israel is still spreading on the internet, which could have harmful effects in real life.
Misinformation is when false information is unknowingly spread, while disinformation is deliberately shared by either government or non-government entities, even during times of war, in order to manipulate public or political views. This can have consequences in all aspects of progress, from maintaining peace and security to providing humanitarian assistance.
UN News looked at what’s happening online and how the UN is fighting for the truth.
Last weekend, as the world watched, there were many posts on social media showing convoys bringing crucial aid to Gaza from Rafah, Egypt.
So did disinformation on what the trucks contained and how aid is reaching the 140 square mile besieged enclave that is home to 2.3 million people, 1.4 million of them displaced by ongoing hostilities.
In order to combat false information and support the United Nations’ goal of “information integrity,” UN agencies are taking action by presenting accurate information and correcting harmful fake news. They are also reaching out to media sources and sharing updates on their digital platforms to report on the current situation in Gaza.
Incorrect information is being shared on social media, falsely stating that the UN is selling bags of wheat at high prices in Gaza.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is currently providing bread to those who have been displaced and living in their shelters. They have also distributed wheat flour for free to 16 bakeries in order to increase production.
According to a report from the agency, UNRWA is providing flour to local bakeries in order to assist families who have been forced to leave their homes and to address the issue of bread shortages. The agency has been helping Palestine refugees since 1950 and is the main provider of humanitarian aid in Gaza for the United Nations.
The head of communications for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), Alia Zaki, reported to UN News that the agency has provided free bags of flour to approximately 23 bakeries located near its distribution points in the enclave.
“Meals transported to shelters operated by the United Nations.”
Starting from October 7th, a majority of the United Nations’ food distribution centers and a significant number of its shelters have shut down as a result of intense bombing and orders to evacuate the area.
Recently, aid workers have been directly delivering shipments to 150 UNWRA facilities, providing shelter for over 630,000 individuals who are seeking safety from airstrikes.
Agency director Cindy McCain stated that the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has provided food to 500,000 individuals since the arrival of the aid convoys.
Humanitarian assistance is never offered for sale.
According to a fraud alert issued by the United Nations in 2022, there are no fees associated with receiving humanitarian aid. This alert was prompted by a scam involving false information in Ukraine.
Before the current conflict, at least 100 trucks carrying aid crossed the border into Gaza every day, as reported by UN agencies. This aid was crucial in providing assistance to 60% of the population who were in need, after a blockade was imposed by Egypt and Israel in 2007 following Hamas’ election to power.
On Friday, Lynn Hastings, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, reported that approximately 74 aid trucks have been delivered into the enclave since October 7th.
According to Ms. Zaki of WFP, the latest shipments included “vital provisions such as provisions, nourishment, medication, and water,” as reported by UN News.
According to a report from OCHA.
Ms. Zaki explained that due to restricted resources and a lack of fuel, the WFP has decreased food portions in order to assist as many individuals in need as they can.
Preventing the spread of false information.
According to a recent opinion piece by Melissa Fleming, UN Under Secretary-General for Global Communications, research indicates that lies spread much quicker than facts.
“Once more, the confusion and misinformation present in the online world is fueling the proliferation of hatred and falsehoods. This has led to hazardous mistakes with immediate and tangible effects,” she stated. “The prevalence of hate speech and misleading information on social media is only adding to the problem, distorting people’s perceptions and potentially inciting more violence.”
How can it be prevented? Consult United Nations organizations, who frequently utilize their social media channels to inform the public with accurate information and debunk false news.
Ms. Fleming suggests taking a break from constantly following the news. She advises being patient and recognizing that the constant flow of updates is not sustainable in today’s overloaded information landscape. It is important to adjust our expectations accordingly.
Clarifying the facts
In times of disagreement, there is often confusion and facts can be misunderstood unintentionally; the UN refers to this as misinformation rather than disinformation.
During these moments, the United Nations emphasizes the significance of obtaining information from reliable sources and encourages online platforms to increase their efforts in preventing the spread of harmful content, according to Ms. Fleming.
After two weeks of fighting, various social media platforms and television news channels, including one from another country, reported that fuel tanks were being transported into Gaza through the closed Rafah crossing.
During a videoconference at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, UNRWA’s communications director, Juliette Touma, clarified any misunderstandings.
“Could you assist us in providing clarification to ensure accuracy? The individuals were already present in Gaza,” she inquired to the journalists. She clarified that the footage depicted UNRWA vehicles delivering essential fuel from their limited resources. “After this briefing, I will immediately contact someone,” Ms Touma stated, with the intention of requesting a correction.
Learn more about the UN’s efforts to combat false information.