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The adage "In war, truth is the first casualty" dates to Aeschylus, who fought in the battle of Marathon. But the Greek dramatist's principle applies to another conflict that seems as ancient: The one between Israelis and Palestinians.

Only now, due to military and media technological transformations, the first casualty falls even quicker. In fact, mistruths were unleashed almost simultaneously with the Oct. 7 terror attacks, according to an analysis by the New York Times, which stated that "In the days since Hamas attacked Israel, killing more than 1,200 people in sweeping assaults on kibbutzim, a music festival, towns and other places, violent images and graphic videos have flooded social media. So too have false and misleading information, old and unrelated videos and photos with inaccurate claims, and fabricated assertions about the involvement of countries like the United States and Ukraine — adding confusion and deception to an already chaotic moment."

Seasoned observers like Shayan Sardarizadeh, the BBC's senior journalist covering disinformation, have said that "the volume of misinformation on Twitter [X] was beyond anything I've ever seen." And the Atlantic's Charlie Warzel wrote that social media is the "window through which the world is witnessing unspeakable violence and cruelty in an active war zone" and given that fact, "then one must surmise that, at present, our information environment is broken. It relies on badly maintained social-media infrastructure and is presided over by billionaires who have given up on the premise that their platforms should inform users."

War, said Emily Vraga, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota's Hubbard School of Journalism, "is rife with disinformation, where people are deliberately trying to manipulate information, deliberately trying to misrepresent the truth in order to represent their side, to speak up for their identity, to advance their political goals, to advance their military goals."

Disinformation today, continued Vraga, isn't just on TV, but "in our pockets, because we're carrying around our phones with us," and social media "doesn't incentivize that kind of accuracy-based thinking. It incentivizes us to act on our emotions, on our identity, on our feelings, which are often at odds with the critical-thinking skills that we need when we're trying to decide whether something's true or false."

Case in point: responsibility for Tuesday's carnage at a Gazan hospital. Despite evidence from Israeli and American authorities that a missile misfired by Islamic Jihad terrorists caused the blast, the already inflamed region became further engulfed with rage when viral reports stated the strike came from Israel — claims many mainstream media organizations amplified with unverified reports. The mis- and disinformation had diplomatic ramifications as well, scuttling a summit between President Joe Biden and the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

Increasingly, insidious disinformation is boosted by artificial intelligence, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday at an intelligence-gathering summit between the U.S. and four of its allies. "We've seen AI to essentially amplify the distribution or dissemination of terrorist propaganda," Wray said.

Meanwhile, authentic, not artificial intelligence from intrepid journalists is imperiled, especially since several media workers have been killed since the fighting began.

Reporters Without Borders counts seven journalists killed in the line of duty, while other sources such as the Committee to Protect Journalists put the toll higher. Either way, it's a tragic loss, first and foremost for those killed and their loved ones, but also for the world's need to know the truth about the war.

"The work that reporters on the ground in Gaza are doing right now, it's nothing short of heroic," said Clayton Weimers, executive director of the U.S. Bureau of Reporters Without Borders. "It's incredibly dangerous, but they're so dedicated to their jobs and to making sure that the story of this conflict is being told accurately, truthfully, and in real time, in ways that we don't get to see very often."

In fact, "it is vital that the press are able to provide accurate and independent accounts of what is happening in the conflict zone," Sherif Mansour, the Committee to Protect Journalists' Middle East and North African program coordinator, said via email. "The impact of journalists killed, specifically local reporters, in the Israel-Gaza conflict is devastating and will continue to have profound impact on the public's right to access credible information."

The stakes for democracy are existential, said Weimers.

"Access to reliable information is absolutely necessary for a functional democracy to survive," Weimers said. "There's no way to participate as a citizen of your country or as a citizen of the world if you don't have an accurate picture of what's happening in the world. This information about a war is especially dangerous because it can cause all kinds of repercussions that are felt well beyond the digital space. It can lead to violence pouring out in real life; it can lead to retributions and outbursts, attacks on American Jews and American Muslims alike, which we're seeing all over the country. There's a lot of heightened tensions right now and disinformation just adds fuel to the fire."

Vraga identified two transcendent risks.

"One, war is horrible and awful, and even without mis- and disinformation it is going to make it really hard to reach across to people we disagree with, to try to find common ground, to try to get a way out of this." Misinformation and disinformation "is often designed to make that harder, increasing the distance between us, making it harder to see each other's humanity."

Two, she added, "is trying to make it seem like the truth is not achievable, that there's just no way of knowing … and leading us to trust nothing at all."

Truth and trust, however, are achievable — through facts. And the best method to get facts is through journalists. So the human tragedy of their loss is also a tragedy for humanity.

Indeed, beyond Aeschylus, the father of tragedy, the words of Herodotus, the father of history, should be heard and heeded, especially his wisdom on the eternal tragedy of war: "In peace," Herodotus said, "sons bury fathers, but war violates the order of nature, and fathers bury sons."