i24 News: One Easy Way to Verify Trustworthiness of a News Story
Using Google to search for news reports of the latest incidents of alleged settler violence, I found a short list of recent articles, including one on i24 News. To my surprise, I discovered that sources supposedly supporting the claims of one of their articles were, in fact, about entirely different issues. There is no author named for this article and I contacted the site for a response. Before I explain the significance of what I found, let me show it to you.
On 28 March 22, i24 News, published an article entitled Suspected Hate Crimes Against West Bank Palestinians. Hyperlinks allow readers to open another document on the Internet by clicking the underlined and/or differently coloured text. You will notice that if you click on the hyperlink in the first sentence of this paragraph, it will take you directly to the named article itself. Within the article, there are hyperlinks that should take one to articles that correspond with the words used for the link, called the linked text.
Let us see what happens in the article examined here. As you read the following, consider what the editors of the site want you to think because these hyperlinks seem very deliberate to me.
The first linked text reads: fatal stabbing attack:
In the same town last week – following the fatal stabbing attack by a Palestinian in the southern city of Be’er Sheva – 200 olive trees were uprooted and signs in the area spray-painted with the words “revenge” and “Be’er Sheva war,” a security official said.
Clicking on the link we get to another i24 article entitled: Terror attack threatens coexistence in southern Israel. It is about the impact of the Beersheva attack on the terrorist’s town as told by a school principal in the town. Within this other article, there is a hyperlink to a description of the attack itself and it seems more reasonable to have expected that that would have been the target article of the linked text in the first case.
The second linked text reads: violence against Palestinians:
security official also noted that stone-throwing near the Givat Assaf outpost was filmed by activists from the Yesh Din human rights group, which documents violence against Palestinians, Haaretz reported.
First of all, we might expect to be linked to an article in Haaretz. Instead, we get to another i24 article, this one called: Israel: security minister calls for military intervention in settler attacks. It is about a new call from Israel’s Minister of Internal Security to allow soldiers to intervene when settlers are violent toward Palestinians and leftwing activists. This is only tangentially related to the topic and in any case, I still want to see the report in Haaretz about the incident near Givat Assaf. If I want information on this incident I need to do a new Google search. This is not a hardship, of course, but a responsible site provides the relevant sources for what they write.
Next, we have the linked text: under the noses of Israeli law enforcement
Last week Yesh Din claimed that the violence “is taking place under the noses of Israeli law enforcement, which allows violence and retaliation to occur as a matter of course, and also encourages it.”
We might reasonably anticipate that this would link to an article showing examples about how the IDF allows and encourages so-called settler violence. However, the article we find upon clicking is: “Israel: Shin Bet admits to sending threatening messages to Arab Israelis” and it is about how the Shin Bet tracked thousands of Palestinians and Arab Israelis who were in the vicinity of the Temple Mount during violence last May and sent them warning messages. Not at all related, is it?
Finally, the linked text: the situation in the West Bank:
A security source called the situation in the West Bank “very sensitive” and the “nationalistically motivated crime” endangers security stability in the Palestinian territory.
Did you expect something about the situation in the West Bank? I did. I expected a description of the situation as given by a security source. However the hyperlink opens an article called: “US envoy to UN: West Bank settlements at ‘critical juncture’” and it is about statements US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield made at a meeting on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. She is certainly not a security source, for one thing.
A tally of four hyperlinks in a 200-word article is much higher than usual. And all hyperlinks go to articles on i24. Of course articles link back to other related articles on their own website. I do that as well. However, there is also the expectation that other sources will be provided, especially if they are mentioned, as Haaretz is here.
Perhaps one could come to the conclusion that i24 News is exploiting hyperlinks to editorialize their seemingly newsy article in lieu of writing an op-ed. Does that make sense to you? This is something I put in my query in their contact form. I will update this article with their response when I receive one from them.
But let me just leave one last example, in case the four above are insufficient to make the point. Within one of the articles linked to above, we find the following:
Barlev, who oversees the police, asked Gantz to make it clear to Kochavi and other military officials that the attorney-general ruled that soldiers can and should arrest Israelis suspected of attacks in the West Bank.
Does the link text “attacks in the West Bank” lead you to expect a news article describing the frequency or intensity of such attacks with examples? Instead, this is the title of the article linked to: “Report: US puts settler violence on par with Iran nukes.” I will leave it to you to open for yourselves if you want or just to decide on the basis of the title alone if this seems like a relevant source link.
Why is this Important?
When I have written earlier about what I consider inaccurate use of language for terms related to Israel and Judea-Samaria, I have been accused of being a nit-picker. I accept that description of me totally. It is my Virgo nature. And this nature came in handy in my former professional as a sex trauma therapist when a prosecutor asked me to go over a report provided by a psychologist who had interviewed a man accused of sexually abuse. The psychologist’s report claimed that the man was innocent of the charges.
The psychologist had appended to his report a bibliography of numerous academic articles that he (supposedly) used as support for his conclusion. The article titles and the journals in which they appeared raised no suspicions in my mind — until I went to the library and opened the first reference. The article was about a different subject entirely. And that characterized the majority of the articles on his list. In her cross-examination of the psychologist, the prosecutor challenged his reference list and on that basis alone the judges determined that his report was unreliable and unprofessional and it was thrown out.
In the same way, we cannot trust a news article, editorial, op-ed or anything else published if the source citations are misleading. Readers need to be discriminating and untrusting until a given writer or website has proven to be trustworthy. One simple test, and I wish it was always this easy, is to click on hyperlinks and check if the article really is supported by available information. Opinions authors state may differ from opinions others would offer, but is the information upon which the opinion is based accurate? In any case, I will certainly not be referring to i24 articles as information sources in any of my own.
How Much Does i24 Matter?
According to a traffic analysis website, i24 is getting about 1.4 million visitors per month. That is a lot of eyes and minds.
Feature Image Credit: Public Domain