New YorkCNN —  As the Israel-Hamas war reaches the end of its first week, millions have turned to platforms including TikTok and Instagram in hopes of comprehending the brutal conflict in real time. Trending search terms on TikTok in recent days illustrate the hunger for frontline perspectives: From “graphic Israel footage” to “live stream in Israel right now,” internet users are seeking out raw, unfiltered accounts of a crisis they are desperate to understand.

For the most part, they are succeeding, discovering videos of tearful Israeli children wrestling with the permanence of death alongside images of dazed Gazans sitting in the rubble of their former homes. But that same demand for an intimate view of the war has created ample openings for disinformation peddlers, conspiracy theorists and propaganda artists — malign influences that regulators and researchers now warn pose a dangerous threat to public debates about the war.

One recent TikTok video, seen by more than 300,000 users and reviewed by CNN, promoted conspiracy theories about the origins of the Hamas attacks, including false claims that they were orchestrated by the media. Another, viewed more than 100,000 times, shows a clip from the video game “Arma 3” with the caption, “The war of Israel.” (Some users in the comments of that video noted they had seen the footage circulating before — when Russia invaded Ukraine.)

TikTok is hardly alone. One post on X, formerly Twitter, was viewed more than 20,000 times and flagged as misleading by London-based social media watchdog Reset for purporting to show Israelis staging civilian deaths for cameras. Another X post the group flagged, viewed 55,000 times, was an antisemitic meme featuring Pepe the Frog, a cartoon that has been appropriated by far-right white supremacists. On Instagram, a widely shared and viewed video of parachuters dropping in on a crowd and captioned “imagine attending a music festival when Hamas parachutes in” was debunked over the weekend and, in fact, showed unrelated parachute jumpers in Egypt. (Instagram later labeled the video as false.)

This week, European Union officials sent warnings to TikTok, Facebook and Instagram-parent Meta, YouTube and X, highlighting reports of misleading or illegal content about the war on their platforms and reminding the social media companies they could face billions of dollars in fines if an investigation later determines they violated EU content moderation laws. US and UK lawmakers have also called on those platforms to ensure they are enforcing their rules against hateful and illegal content.

Since the violence in Israel began, Imran Ahmed, founder and CEO of the social media watchdog group Center for Countering Digital Hate, told CNN his group has tracked a spike in efforts to pollute the information ecosystem surrounding the conflict.

“Getting information from social media is likely to lead to you being severely disinformed,” said Ahmed.

Everyone from US foreign adversaries to domestic extremists to internet trolls and “engagement farmers” has been exploiting the war on social media for their own personal or political gain, he added.

“Bad actors surrounding us have been manipulating, confusing and trying to create deception on social media platforms,” Dan Brahmy, CEO of the Israeli social media threat intelligence firm Cyabra, said Thursday in a video posted to LinkedIn. “If you are not sure of the trustworthiness [of content] … do not share,” he said.

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