ISRAEL + HAMAS

Concern over possible Israeli hostage videos, parents told to delete kids’ social media accounts

Oct 11, 2023, 5:46 PM | Updated: Nov 30, 2023, 5:46 pm

Image of a child holding a cell phone....

Schools are urging parents to delete social media apps from their children's phones. (Rouzes/i Stockphoto/Getty Images via CNN)

(Rouzes/i Stockphoto/Getty Images via CNN)

New York (CNN) — Schools in Israel, the UK and the US are advising parents to delete their children’s social media apps over concerns that Hamas militants will broadcast or disseminate disturbing videos of hostages who have been seized in recent days.

A Tel Aviv school’s parent’s association said it expects videos of hostages “begging for their lives” to surface on social media. In a message to parents, shared with CNN by a mother of children at a high school in Tel Aviv, the association asked parents to remove apps such as TikTok from their children’s phones.

“We cannot allow our kids to watch this stuff. It is also difficult, furthermore – impossible – to contain all this content on social media,” according to the parent’s association. “Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.”

Hamas has warned that it will post murders of hostages on social media if Israel targets people in Gaza without warning.

There are additional concerns that terrorists will exploit social media algorithms to specifically target such videos to followers of Jewish or Israeli influencers in an effort to wage psychological warfare on Israelis and Jews and their supporters globally.

During the onslaught on Saturday, armed Hamas militants poured over the heavily-fortified border into Israel and took as many as 150 hostages, including Israeli army officers, back to Gaza. The surprise attacks killed at least 1,200 people, according to the Israel Defense Forces, and injured thousands more.

Since Israel began airstrikes on the Palestinian enclave Saturday, at least 1,055 people have been killed in Gaza, including hundreds of children, women, and entire families, according to the Palestinian health ministry. It said a further 5,184 have been injured, as of Wednesday.

As the war wages on, some Jewish schools in the US are also asking parents not to share related videos or photos that may surface, and to prevent children – and themselves – from watching them. The schools are also advising community members to delete their social media apps during this time.

“Together with other Jewish day schools, we are warning parents to disable social media apps such as Instagram, X, and Tiktok from their children’s phones,” the head of a school in New Jersey wrote in an email. “Graphic and often misleading information is flowing freely, augmenting the fears of our students. … Parents should discuss the dangers of these platforms and ask their children on a daily basis about what they are seeing, even if they have deleted the most unfiltered apps from their phones.”

Another school in the UK said it asked students to delete their social media apps during a safety assembly.

TikTok, Instagram and X – formerly known as Twitter – did not immediately respond to requests for comment on how they are combating the increase of videos being posted online and for comment on schools asking parents to delete these apps.

But X said on its platform is has experienced an increase in daily active users in the conflict area and its escalation teams have “actioned tens of thousands of posts for sharing graphic media, violent speech, and hateful conduct.” It did not respond to a request to comment further or define “actioned.”

“We’re also continuing to proactively monitor for antisemitic speech as part of all our efforts,” X’s safety team said. “Plus we’ve taken action to remove several hundred accounts attempting to manipulate trending topics.”

The company added it remains “laser focused” on enforcing the site’s rules and reminded users they can limit sensitive media they may encounter by visiting the “Content you see” option in Settings.

Still, misinformation continues to run rampant on social media platforms, including X.

A post viewed more than 500,000 times – featuring the hashtag #PalestineUnderAttack – claimed to show an airplane being shot down. But the clip was from the video game Arma 3, as was later noted in a “community note” appended to the post.

Another video that is purported to show Israeli generals after being captured by Hamas fighters was viewed more than 1.7 million times by Monday. The video, however, instead shows the detention of separatists in Azerbaijan.

On Tuesday, the European Union warned Elon Musk of “penalties” for disinformation circulating on X amid Israel-Hamas war.

The EU also informed Meta CEO Zuckerberg on Wednesday of a disinformation surge on its platforms – which include Facebook – and demanded the company respond in 24 hours with how it plans to combat the issue.

In an Instagram story on Tuesday, Zuckerberg called the attack “pure evil” and said his focus “remains on the safety of our employees and their families in Israel and the region.”

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Concern over possible Israeli hostage videos, parents told to delete kids’ social media accounts