BCM 113: Ethic Explainer – Fake news, misinformation and disinformation

China spreading disinformation news of “Hong Kong extradition bill” via social media platforms


Fake news label as false and misleading information which disseminated as news. (Ireton and Posetti, 2018) Recently, fake news and misleading information spreads faster and easier across the internet and social media. Information confusion, maliciously false news has caused unexpected imFake news label as false and misleading information which disseminated as news. (Ireton and Posetti, 2018) Recently, social media platforms have become the main device for the distribution of news delivery. Fake news and misleading information spread faster and easier across the internet and social media. Information confusion, maliciously false news has caused unexpected impacts on society, some danger misleading news and information are inflaming the social conflict. The ways that spreading disinformation and news obstructing can lead to serious aftermath, especially when it involved political issues.

Case: China is spreading disinformation about Hong Kong extradition bill via social media

Figure 1-China Central Television published news claiming that the girl who got shot in the right eye last night was “actually shot by protesters”.
Figure 2-China Central Television published a post on Weibo claiming that the girl who got shot in the right eye last night was “actually shot by protesters”. Source-https://twitter.com/freedomhkg/status/1160816085794316288

China spreading disinformation news of “Hong Kong extradition bill” on social media platforms and the internet. Since extradition bill protests began 3 months ago in Hong Kong, Facebook and Twitter also WeChat accounts that founded in China had amplified the messages and images that portrayed Hong Kong’s protesters as violent and extreme, which some of the statement were disinformation and out of context.

Social media platforms are now the key infrastructure for public and political discourse. As we can see in the above images, Beijing’s state broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV) published news (Figure 1) and Weibo post (Figure 2) on their official website claiming that the girl who got shot in the right eye last night was “actually shot by protesters.” CCTV also published follow-up news about the photo (Figure1) of the woman counting out cash on a Hong Kong sidewalk and claimed that those protesters are merely paid, provocateurs.

However, China Central Television has repeatedly misled both Chinese and international audiences about the nature of the movement and the protest. It was struck in the eye by a police bean-bag round. (Cook, 2019) That misleading information was deceived both Chinese and foreign reader about the property of the movement. In this past few years, there are a lot of Russian-style social media disinformation spread on international social media platforms. The report (Bradshaw and Howard, 2019) stated that in 2019, The Chinese government has shown “new-found interest in using social media platform-Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.” It is distributed fabrications post and information about Hong Kong protesters.

In August 2019, Twitter announced that it had deleted over 900 accounts that were used as part of a Chinese state-directed disinformation operation to ruin the trustworthiness of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong. (BBC News, Dave Lee, 2020) Facebook and YouTube sequentially announced similar fake account had taken down. Most of the content was in Chinese, and their target audience is Chinese diasporas, as we can see China is purposely misleading information propagate on social media platforms is impacting the public understanding of reality and weakening trust, informed dialogue and a shared sense of reality.


Fake news which impacts the field in journalism. In the world which full of information, trustworthiness, independence and accuracy also can establish the relationship of trust between journalism and the public. Social media can be a major platform to engage in society with journalism and to foster discussion, civic values, and democratic participation. Trust in media and journalism was breaking because of the reach of disinformation and misinformation are disguised as news via social media.

Misleading news effects on journalism industries. The reporter was inviolate the standards and ethics of journalism by spreading misleading information and disinformation, it causes the public may come to disbelieve to all the news and effected the views of consumers on news media. Consumers might feel sceptical when receiving too much misleading information and corrodes the trust they should have in the media. (Stolarski,2020) Trust in journalism industries can help increase the quality of sources available to journalists. Therefore, publishing or spreading disinformation might affect and damages the reputation of whole journalism industries, also bad quality journalism further depreciating public respect for the profession.

In high-speed information free, everyone can be a publisher on social media platforms. Fake news affects all content creators such as users of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, all the public strived to distinguish the accuracy on news. News media should stringently obey to professional standards and ethics, avoid accidentally and uncritically disseminating disinformation and misinformation that could mislead the public on any platform. The cardinal principles of journalism are to report the truth for the audience by presenting to authentic news, endeavouring to get the facts right, and providing content that truly reflects the facts. (Ethical Journalism Network, n.d.)


In the fight upon misinformation, journalism has a key role to play. Journalism is to report the exact information to the public and commit the MEAA journalist ethics of code also uphold the principle of honesty, independence and fairness. Journalists should strive to ensure accuracy fairness and disclosure of all essential facts in their reports. They should not suppress relevant available facts or mislead the public by quoting out of context, distorting facts or twisting the original meaning. Journalists should not practise censorship based on non-journalist’s considerations. Besides, journalists should avoid conflict of interest. They should present pictures and sound, which are true and accurate to avoid misleading the public. Whenever there is an inaccuracy, misleading facts, the journalist should utmost to achieve fair correction of errors.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Google, Twitter had signed a code of conduct with the European Union to tackle misleading and fake news problems. The agreement is a “self-regulatory” measure, (Witzleb, Paterson and Richardson, 2019) which improves the detection, analysis and exposure of disinformation, involving both human and automated fact-checkers. Google and Facebook prohibit fake accounts and demote that fake information deemed as misinformation. (Kulwin, 2016) More, Google hires a senior news editor to spot the fake news. Google sets a high bar with search results and ranks those pages from authoritative sources. The objective of Authoritative Search Results is to find results from higher-quality search results, therefore those authoritative news result can be listing to rank higher in Google Search results. (Slawski, 2017)


Fake news affects all content creators such as the users of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, they might be fooled by fake news stories. Reference trusted clearinghouses of fake news, such as Snopes. Next, view the content you create through the critical lens. When you curate or cite content, check that it’s from a reputable source. When you quote a statistic to support your marketing, dig deeper to validate that it’s authentic, valid and supportable.

As we can see in the above case study, China has become more aggressive incited the nationalist and a blind patriotism feeling using social media. The result, both in China and overseas which has been to create a different version of what we have seen from the movement in Hong Kong. Yet, in China’s version, the protest march, which is a small, violent group of protesters, unsupported. They are calling for Hong Kong’s independence and encourage tearing China apart. This narrative nearly reflects that country is fuelling misunderstanding between the Chinese public.

People being actively misinformed by malicious actors and it caused information disorder. People who are sharing this type of fake news content, they are trying to be helpful, but they fail to sufficiently inspect and validate the information that they are sharing. Therefore, people should be fact-checked when posting any statement and claim to the public, which can verify the information to determine their accuracy and correctness. Therefore, people who work in media should obey the rules before publishing any information and ensure the information they convey is credible which must be based on the facts.

Misleading and fake news affect in the whole world, social media and Government need to develop and implement a countermeasure to fight against the misinformation. The government can establish legislation to control the spreading of fake news and need to strike a balance between regulatory and free speech.

Reference List

Ireton, C. and Posetti, J., 2018. [ebook] France: UNESCO, p.14. Available at: <https://en.unesco.org/sites/default/files/journalism_fake_news_disinformation_print_friendly_0.pdf&gt; [Accessed 22 May 2020].

Bradshaw, S. and Howard, P., 2019. The Global Disinformation Order 2019 Global Inventory of Organised Social Media Manipulation. [ebook] UK, p.2. Available at: <https://comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/93/2019/09/CyberTroop-Report19.pdf&gt; [Accessed 26 May 2020].

Dotson, J., 2020. Chinese Covert Social Media Propaganda and Disinformation Related to Hong Kong. ChinaBrief, [online] 19(16), pp.1-7. Available at: <https://jamestown.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Read-the-09-06-2019-CB-Issue-in-PDF.pdf&gt; [Accessed 29 May 2020].

Witzleb, N., Paterson, M. and Richardson, J., 2019. Big data, political campaigning and the law. Routledge, p.246.

Conger, K., 2020. Facebook and Twitter Say China Is Spreading Disinformation in Hong Kong. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: <https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/19/technology/hong-kong-protests-china-disinformation-facebook-twitter.html&gt; [Accessed 22 May 2020].

Myers, S. and Mozur, P., 2020. China Is Waging a Disinformation War Against Hong Kong Protesters. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: <https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/13/world/asia/hong-kong-protests-china.html?_ga=2.143451125.1582779616.1590098198-576454907.1589948515&gt; [Accessed 22 May 2020].

BBC News, Dave Lee, 2020. Hong Kong protests: Twitter and Facebook remove Chinese accounts. [online] Available at: <https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-49402222&gt; [Accessed 13 Jun. 2020].

Stolarski, K., 2020. What are the effects of fake news?. [online] Wearefalls.com. Available at: <https://www.wearefalls.com/insights/posts/what-are-the-effects-of-fake-news&gt; [Accessed 12 Jun. 2020].

Kulwin, N., 2016. Silicon Valley’s social media heavyweights have signed a hate speech ‘Code of Conduct’ with the European Union. [online] Vox. Available at: <https://www.vox.com/2016/5/31/11821020/twitter-facebook-microsoft-google-eu-code-of-conduct&gt; [Accessed 13 Jun. 2020].

Ethical Journalism Network, n.d. Five Principles of Ethical Journalism – Ethical Journalism Network. [online] Ethical Journalism Network. Available at: <https://ethicaljournalismnetwork.org/who-we-are/5-principles-of-journalism&gt; [Accessed 13 Jun. 2020].

Slawski, B., 2017. Authoritative Search Results in Google Searches? – SEO by the Sea ⚓. [online] SEO by the Sea ⚓. Available at: <https://www.seobythesea.com/2017/05/how-does-google-look-for-authoritative-search-results/&gt; [Accessed 13 Jun. 2020].

Cook, S., 2019. China Central Television: A Long-standing Weapon in Beijing’s Arsenal of Repression. [online] Freedom House. Available at: <https://freedomhouse.org/article/china-central-television-long-standing-weapon-beijings-arsenal-repression&gt; [Accessed 13 Jun. 2020].

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