A young Israeli woman is harassed in a bar by three men. Her reaction? To beat all three of them up mercilessly. The video, purporting to show security footage of this event, has been shared on social media more than eight million times since it was published last month. But it turns out, the story behind the video is a little different than what first meets the eye.

The video was first posted on February 16, 2016 by the "superwoman" herself, Gili Ganani, a 19-year-old black belt in Krav Maga, a self-defense system developed for the Israel Defense Forces. The caption explained that she was waiting for her friends to arrive in the bar when the men started bothering her. 

Her post was picked up by another Facebook user who added an English caption and shared it on February 29. That version took off and has been viewed more than 8 million times.

ISRAELI GIRL IS BEING SEXUALLY HARASSED BUT WATCH WHAT HAPPENED NEXTThese three guys didn’t know the Israeli girl...

Posted by Jean-Baptiste Kim on Monday, 29 February 2016

Many people commented on the video, encouraging the young woman to keep up the “good work”.

Viewers wrote “good girl, you go!”, “Serves them right. You go girl...”, “Gosh love this post’, “Every woman should have that training”, and “superwoman”.

But the spectacular display of fighting skills turned out to be a publicity stunt for Ganani’s Krav Maga teacher, who she thanks at the end of the video. Ganani herself admitted that the video was staged in a Facebook post published a day after the video. She praised those who guessed that it was a fake.

In an interview, Ganani herself told FRANCE 24’s Observers that she participated in the video in order to raise “awareness” about the “importance of self-defense for women”.

However, on March 3, just when the video was getting lots of attention, Ganani posted a second video. At the beginning and end of this second video, there’s an advertisement banner with a telephone number and logo for Dar’s courses.

In this second video, Ganani invites girls to try out Krav Maga courses with her instructor. (screengrab)

In this video itself, Ganani addresses the audience directly, while footage of a training session with Dar plays in the background. She explains that, after the first video was released, she received many requests for Krav Maga self-defense courses for women, so she invites viewers to join her coach’s Krav Maga club if they want to learn more.

This is only one of many examples of hidden advertisements circulating on social networks. Viral videos offer companies quick access to large audiences. Unaware that the impressive videos are staged, social media users share and post the videos, and the buzz spreads. Meanwhile, there are many examples of videos that are genuinely made to promote self-defense techniques for women have much fewer views on social media.

Our Team contacted Romain Margot-Dufour, an advertising specialist. He said that he has mixed feelings about using staged videos to get a point across. While he finds the method slightly dishonest, he admits that it can be effective.

The buzz around this video has been generated by curiosity and voyeurism with regard to the extraordinary. We find all necessary ingredients that captivate viewer’s interest and emotion: violence, fear, the unexpected and, finally, a sort of ‘happy ending’… It is part of the natural ‘storytelling’ process of advertising campaigns.

While most countries have laws banning all forms of manipulation regarding advertisement, these kinds of campaigns often circulate freely on social media, which is hard to regulate.

Romain Margot-Dufour added:

Hoax or conspiracy theories have a lot in common with this type of hidden advertising. Of course, they don’t have the commercial aspect, but they aim to influence behavior in the same way. We need to teach people how to analyze these videos and distinguish true from false messages.

FRANCE 24's Observers have published a manual with tips for verifying the authenticity of photos and videos circulating on social media.

The Observers also already debunked a similar video that purported to show surveillance camera footage of a waitress in a Russian bar knocking down a man who was harassing her.