Video footage of a man in uniform forcibly detaining a young boy has been uploaded to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms in recent days.

Most of the posts claim that the man is an Israeli policeman and the boy is Palestinian. The allegation is that the child was strangled to death during the encounter, which is supposed to have taken place during the recent outbreak of violence between Israel and Palestinians.

This is completely untrue. The video actually comes from Sweden and dates from 2015. It has been posted periodically since then alongside similar false claims.

How can we check whether videos are wrongly labelled?

There are a few easy ways to check whether videos like this really show what the captioning around them suggests.

With a YouTube video, we can simply paste the URL into Amnesty International’s Data Viewer tool and click on “reverse image search” to search the web for key images from the video.

After just two clicks, we can see straight away that the original footage cannot possibly have been uploaded in the last few days, because there are posts from 2018 that contain the same images.

We can also take a screengrab of the first frame of the video and do a reverse image search using a site like Google Images, TinEye or Yandex.

A TinEye search of the first frame – with the results sorted by “oldest” – shows that the video first surfaced online back in 2015:

With a little bit more digging, it’s easy to find the original source: a news story from Sweden about security guards at a train station in the city of Malmo apparently using excessive force to detain a boy accused of travelling without a ticket.

The story was covered by many media outlets around the world at the time, including the Independent in the UK, which posted the video footage online alongside several stills.

While the boy appears to be under some distress, there was no suggestion at the time that he had died or been seriously injured.

He does appear to recite an Islamic prayer at one point, which might explain why some social media users found it plausible that the footage originated from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The footage posted back in 2015 is clearly identical to that being uploaded now, alongside captions that misidentify the Swedish men involved as Israeli police.

In better-quality versions, the insignia on the men’s uniforms and Swedish writing on their high-visibility jackets make it obvious that they are local security guards.

We have seen complaints that social media sites have been removing posts that contain this footage and falsely claim a link to events in the Middle East.

This is because the false claim of Israeli involvement has surfaced online several times since 2015 and has already been repeatedly debunked by fact-checking organisations over the years.

Most of the big social sites have policies of taking down posts which have been proved to be false and misleading, and that process appears to be working in this case, although the footage can still be found on some prominent sites as various users reupload it.

Misinformation war

This mis-attributed video is far from the only false story circulating on social media since the latest round of violence erupted in the Middle East.

Last week Twitter placed a warning on a tweet from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official spokesman, which he said showed Hamas firing rockets at Israel.

In fact, a simple reverse image search showed that this footage too, had been mis-captioned: it was taken in Syria in 2018. The spokesman, Ofir Gendelman, later deleted the tweet.

And an Israel Defense Forces account also deleted a Twitter post that purported to show Palestinian Hamas militants deploying rocket launchers in a civilian neighbourhood.

Aric Toler from the investigative journalism site Bellingcat showed that the launchers were actually decoys owned by the Israeli military itself.