Fake news war divides, confuses
HONG KONG: Chinese tanks at the border? False. Photo of a protester biting off a policeman’s finger? Misleading. In polarised Hong Kong, a fake news fight for public opinion has become as crucial a battleground as the city streets.
During weeks of pro-democracy protests that have involved millions of people and frequently turned violent, online rumours and conspiracy theories have sowed confusion and deepened distrust.
From 2011 footage of South Korean soldiers misrepresented as an impending Chinese “invasion” to doctored photographs exaggerating the size of rallies, Hong Kong citizens have been bombarded with conflicting claims from both sides of the political divide.
The numbers signalling the impact of the disinformation can be shocking.
Footage of a convoy of Chinese tanks that posts claimed were being sent “to suppress Hong Kongers and cause bloodshed” quickly racked up more than 800,000 views on one Twitter account alone.
Hong Kong authorities have been forced to repeatedly deny claims circulating on social media – most recently, that People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers had been brought in from the mainland to defend government buildings.