In the frantic early hours of Oct. 7, amid wailing sirens and word of gunfights along Israel’s southern border, Achiya Schatz rushed with his toddler and heavily pregnant wife into a bomb shelter near Tel Aviv.

He did not stay long.

The first reports of the Hamas attack were already fusing with rumors, sweeping into social media feeds and private chat groups in an emotionally charged and largely unverified mass. Mr. Schatz, one of the best-known disinformation researchers and fact checkers in Israel, rushed back home to his computer, knowing he had little time to stop the false claims from metastasizing.

In a way, he was already too late.

Since the initial attack, disinformation watchdogs in the region have been overwhelmed by unfounded narratives, manipulated media and conspiracy theories. The content has spread in enormous volumes at great speed: video game clips and old news reports masquerading as current footage, attempts to disavow authentic photos as artificially generated, inaccurate translations and false accusations distributed in multiple languages.


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