As we have been repeating for weeks, composing this column has been difficult for us lately. Why it is really difficult to find fake news that does not concern the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Both sides, in fact, are manipulating information, with the evident aim of making public opinion hostile to the opposing faction, or of exalting their own.
In this sense Social platforms certainly don’t help, as they are often guilty of being less than diligent in stemming misinformation. Proof of this is the fact that the European Commission, after a warning letter, intervened by opening an investigation, first against X (the former Twitter), then against Meta and TikTok.
The hoaxes of Israel and Hamas and artificial intelligence
In short, it would be difficult for us to tell you about a hoax that did not concern the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
At the very least, we will do so by leaving aside the most explicit, violent and vulgar fake news, and focusing on one of our areas of dissemination, namely generative artificial intelligence. Which was called into question in the pseudo-news of a huge Palestinian flag that stood out in a football stadium.
The huge Palestinian flag displayed at the stadium
The news, or rather the image, circulating on social media is that of a gigantic flag (banner in football jargon) that takes up almost an entire curve of a stadium.
More precisely, it would be the Cívitas Metropolitano stadium, where the Atletico Madrid football team plays its home games, and the enormous flag would be the Palestinian one.
The message is all too obvious. As well as the texts that accompany the image on social media. One of these, for example, begins with: “The whole world is revolting against Netanyahu’s follies” and ends with: “This is Atletico Madrid’s stadium.”
Actually, the image of the huge Palestinian flag that stood out in the Atletico Madrid stadium was produced with artificial intelligence. And this can be argued in two different ways.
The first concerns the usual ones inconsistencies of when image-generating AI goes to work. In this specific case, the arms of some fans in the foreground are inordinately long and thin, and the fingers of others are almost indistinguishable.
There is further reasoning to be done. There are videos online of fans openly supporting the population of Gaza, such as those of Celtic Glasgow. In the case of the Glasgow fans, however, flags and songs involved a certainly smaller portion of fans. It would be almost impossible for several thousand people (many of whom seem to be able to stand under the Palestinian flag) to be coincidentally all on the same side, especially in such a complex and – as they say today – divisive conflict.
Artificial intelligence and fake news
The alleged Palestinian flag in the Atletico Madrid stadium is yet another case that demonstrates how a large part of disinformation passes (and will pass) through images.
At least for now, at least, even remarkable software still makes inaccuracies that we can notice. Let us also remember that we always have the opportunity to think about the context and cross-reference the sources, to discover the truthfulness or otherwise of the news.
Things could get complicated in the near future if our level of literacy does not improve as image-generating intelligence improves.
AI and the conflict between Israel and Hamas: other examples
The examples of manipulation of reality through images by both factions, Israel and Hamas, are numerous.
Fortunately, in many of these cases it is easy to disprove the fake news conveyed by the images, because they present situations that are truly not credible. Or why the current limits of AI are all apparent. As in the image of a Palestinian child crying for help among the rubble, showing a hand with six fingers (remember that errors in details such as fingers and ears are among the most frequent in software that produces images).
Then there is the short video of Cristiano Ronaldo who apparently shows off a Palestinian flag, but the player in question is not the Portuguese ace (known for only wearing the number 7 shirt) but a Moroccan footballer who shows off the number 18 shirt.
The risk is that the proliferation and interception of all this fake news makes us forget that the ongoing wars, on the contrary, are sadly real.