Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have removed and suspended accounts that are believed to be part of a China-backed campaign to vilify the Hong Kong protest movement.
Twitter has reportedly suspended 200,000 accounts and Facebook has also removed numerous pages and accounts and groups that have violated the user rules.
YouTube has blocked 210 videos believed to be smearing the anti-extradition bill movement in Hong Kong.
Why are these Western social media platforms cracking down on the fake accounts and pages in such a high profile manner?
The way I see it, most people nowadays get their news not from traditional media outlets but from social media platforms.
Online news can go viral almost instantly, regardless of whether it’s authentic or not. Netizens usually won’t do fact-checking themselves, and it would be hard to do so anyway even if they want to.
In the US, foreign forces were found to be spreading fake news to manipulate the nation’s 2016 presidential election.
US President Donald Trump has also been targeting media outlets, accusing them of churning out fake news.
Social media platforms are beginning to realize the seriousness of these issues. And they intend to restore confidence in their platforms by taking a tough stance against fake information.
How can we verify news content on social media?
The thumb rule would be to conduct fact-checks, examining content for veracity as well as issues such as bias or racism or incendiary messages.
I think Twitter, Facebook and Google have done the right thing this time. Hopefully, social media platforms can continue to play a gatekeeper role in stamping out fake news.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 27
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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