Dangerous by Design
X Premium Accounts Spread Hamas Propaganda Videos of Attack on Israel
X has policies in place that ban terrorist propaganda. But the platform is allowing premium subscription accounts to spread graphic Hamas videos.

X, formerly Twitter, is allowing premium subscriber accounts to spread Hamas propaganda videos with violent images of the group’s attack on Israel, in apparent violation of X’s content policies, according to a new investigation from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP).

TTP found examples of X Premium accounts, which have a blue checkmark indicating they pay an $8 monthly subscription fee to the platform, spreading Hamas videos of gunmen shooting up buildings with automatic weapons, scenes of bloodied bodies on the ground, and rocket and drone attacks on Israeli tanks and vehicles.

The videos, which carry Hamas iconography, are featured on the website of the military wing of Hamas, the Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades. While some media organizations have used clips of the videos in news reports and analyses of the conflict, the X accounts identified in this report feature the videos in full—and unlike the media reports, they do not blur images of the dead.

This video content appears to violate X’s “violent and hateful entities" policy, which bans promotion of terrorist organizations and their propaganda. Another X policy bans accounts that share content produced by the perpetrators of terrorist attacks. Both policies indicate they were updated this year under owner Elon Musk. The U.S. designated Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.

In the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel, X announced that it had taken down “newly created Hamas-affiliated accounts” and was “coordinating with industry peers” through the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism to “try and prevent terrorist content from being distributed online.” But TTP found no evidence that X had restricted the accounts sharing the Hamas attack videos. In some cases, X ran ads in the comments under the video posts, monetizing the terrorist content.

TTP also identified an X account that appears to be directly linked to Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing, and is sharing the group’s propaganda videos. X is running ads in the posts on that account as well.

News reports in recent days have highlighted how X, which laid off thousands of employees and dismantled much of its trust and safety team under Musk’s leadership, has become a font of disinformation about the Israel-Hamas conflict. TTP’s new research shows that violent Hamas propaganda is also circulating on the platform.

USA Today, which reported on Hamas' online terror campaign, including TTP's findings, said X did not respond to requests for comment.

Graphic Violence

Two X Premium accounts shared a Hamas video of the storming of a military site in Nahal Oz, a kibbutz in southern Israel just over the border from Gaza. The video shows gunmen attacking a series of buildings with automatic weapons and the blood-soaked bodies of what appear to be soldiers and civilians on the ground. The video opens with a logo for the Al-Qassam Brigades and text in Arabic stating, “The Al Qassam brigades stormed the Nahal Oz military site east of Gaza City. It killed a number of enemy soldiers and captured a number of others during the Battle of Al Aqsa Flood.” The video also carries an Arabic calligraphy logo in the upper left corner that says, “The Military Media.”

One of the blue checkmark accounts sharing the video, @Ali7861216216, was created in August 2023 and describes itself as “Creative, Posting memes, funny clips, just to make people laugh.” The other premium account sharing the video is @WarMonitors, which gained attention this week after Musk promoted the account as a good source for “following the war in real-time” before deleting his post. The account, which has over 750,000 followers, is known for spreading a false claim of an explosion at the Pentagon in May 2023.

The @WarMonitors account has posted at least a dozen other Hamas propaganda videos bearing the group’s media logo and iconography.

As X Premium subscribers, accounts like @Ali7861216216 and @WarMonitors enjoy certain perks, such as “prioritized rankings in conversations and search” and the ability to directly download videos from the platform. They are able to access these select features even as they spread Hamas propaganda videos that violate X’s policy on terrorism.

Another blue checkmark account on X, @CensoredMen, posted a Hamas video showing a drone attack that destroyed an Israeli tank in a fiery explosion. The account, created in Dec. 2022, has more than half a million followers and has generated over 195,000 views on the video since it was posted. An X Premium account called @clashreport, with more than 298,000 followers, shared the same video, generating over 657,000 views.

In another example, X Premium accounts @IranObserver0 and @GrandOlPatriots posted a Hamas video of an attack near the Erez crossing from Gaza into Israel. The video, which kicks off with text, “Scenes from the division's brigades storming the Erez military site and finishing off enemy soldiers,” shows militants going room to room in a building firing automatic weapons as mangled bodies lay on the ground.

TTP observed that X ran ads in the replies under some of these videos. This means that the platform is generating revenue from these policy-violating posts while potentially endangering the brand safety of advertisers. X began offering the ability to advertise in the conversations under posts in 2021.

Hamas-linked account

TTP also identified an X account that appears to be linked to the Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.

The X account, @Pal_resi48, also goes by EQB, the initials of Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades. (It is a regular X account, not a premium account.) A pinned post on the account links to a website that the U.S. government has attributed to the Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades, and the site also links to this X account.

Clicking the website link from the X account generated a warning that “this link may be unsafe.” But as of Oct. 11, the platform had not removed or restricted the account.

Here’s a screencast video showing how the Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades site links to two social accounts, X and Telegram. The X social button on the site takes users directly to the @Pal_resi48 account.

The @Pal_resi48 account posted the Hamas propaganda video mentioned previously in this report showing the attack on the Erez military checkpoint on the border with Gaza. The account also shared images of Hamas operations carrying the same stylized “Military Media” Arabic icon, as well as a propaganda video of the terrorist group’s so-called Falcon squadron.

The Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades website includes social media buttons for Facebook and X to encourage people to share its propaganda videos online. TTP found that Facebook blocked an attempt to post a video from the site, while X did no such blocking. (TTP did not actually post the videos to ensure it did not amplify terrorist propaganda.)

Back in 2014, Twitter, as X was previously known, reportedly suspended an account for the military wing of Hamas. But the @Pal_resi48 account on X has been operating on the platform since August 2022, and X has monetized the account with ads.

The account’s feed featured ads from the American Investment Council and the National Football League (NFL).

Social media platforms like X have been here before. When the Islamic State terrorist group made heavy use of social media as a propaganda and recruitment tool during its rise in 2015, Big Tech platforms scrambled to address the problem. In February 2016, then-Twitter released a statement about its efforts to combat violent extremism, stating “We condemn the use of Twitter to promote terrorism and the Twitter Rules make it clear that this type of behavior, or any violent threat, is not permitted on our service.”

But today, terrorist propaganda is again flowing on X, this time from Hamas.

October 12, 2023
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