Asia struggling with fake news

Updated By on Mar 08, 2017, 09:00 am
facebook share tweet share big font small font print page

By AsiaToday reporter Kim Eun-young - Fake news is rapidly becoming a global problem, and Asia is struggling with it, too.

The Global Times, the English version of Chinese daily Huánqiú Shíbào, reported Sunday that a senior military official's tough words on "liberating Taiwan" has sparked controversy. "If the US deploys the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in Taiwan, it will be the day that we liberate Taiwan," Wang Hongguang, a retired Lieutenant-General and former deputy commander of the Nanjing Military Area Command, told The Global Times on March 3.

Wang's remarks soon provoked online discussions among Chinese netizens as if Taiwan's THAAD deployment were a fact. Besides, a somewhat exaggerated report on this issue has also raised suspicions about Taiwan's THHAD deployment. On Feb. 15, the Taiwan News reported that the U.S. military plans to sell the THAAD system to Taiwan to jointly establish an East Asian "mini-NATO" anti-missile network with Japan and South Korea, citing an opinion column titled, "U.S. Military Rumored to be Planning to Deploy THAAD System in Taiwan," from the Hong Kong-based magazine Asia Week.

Source: screenshot of the article on the Taiwan News


The column asserted that in order to counter the ballistic missiles positioned in southern China aimed at Guam, Taiwan would be an ideal location to set up a THAAD system and that the U.S. might be eyeing Taiwan now that Japan and South Korea appear to be receiving the THAAD system. In other words, unconfirmed facts were quoted in the media and quickly became facts.


Fake news, which twists and distorts facts, also fuels social anxiety and disruption. Japan's Nikkei Asian Review recently reported that fake news has flooded in Malaysia on Facebook, Twitter, and other online sites over the past several months when Jakarta's governor campaign was in full swing. These fake stories asserted that the election bid of Chinese Christian incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama is part of an anti-Islam conspiracy. They also caused public fears of a Chinese invasion and the revival of communism in Indonesia.


In Indonesia, rumors have also spread that 10 million Chinese workers had invaded the country to take locals' jobs away, and that the new rupiah notes, which are issued in December 2016, have the symbol of communism hidden on them. In response, the Ministry of Labor has strengthened investigations into factories suspected of employing smuggled Chinese workers while Indonesia's central bank considered filing a defamation charge against false claims, reported the newspaper.


Fake news is also being used as a tool to express hatred and groundless slander. The U.S. online media BuzzFeed News revealed that a Japanese website published a story back in January that a South Korean court judged a Korean man, who was accused of raping two Japanese girls aged 11 and 9 in 2000, innocent. The article spread widely on Facebook, getting more than 20,000 shares and comments. But it has been found to be false. The 25-year-old site owner, who asked for anonymity, told BuzzFeed News that fake articles about South Korea that angered or shocked Japanese audience were popular. "Articles that inspire hate get spread," he said.


UPI recently reported that as concerns about online fake news is going global, South Korea's national election commission is tackling the problem through online monitoring ahead of the presidential election. In January, the commission set up a team to tackle defamation and propaganda online.


Image: Twitter screenshot (@dsk3614)


The commission has accused Mr. Yang, CEO of a software development company, for allegedly posting wrongful information about presidential candidates Moon Jae-in and Lee Jae-myung on Wikipedia. He is accused of editing the nationality information of the two candidates from "Republic of Korea" to "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" and publishing the false information on Wikipedia on February 27.

However, these are also voices of concern that systematic crackdowns can lead to 'cyber censorship', which can oppress the freedom of the press and violate accurate reporting. The Guardian reported that China's state-run news agency Xinhua criticized recent reports of the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times claiming that a Chinese human rights lawyer was tortured by government agents as fake news. David Bandurski, a Chinese journalism expert at Hong Kong University, said, "Beijing had long used the concept of fake news to discredit reporting it did not approve of."

facebook share tweet share
big font small font print page