How the Chinese government used fake news to justify its crackdown on social media
The world is in a “new dark age” with the “unprecedented” use of “fake news”, according to a leading Chinese academic.
Professor Li Guowei said the country was also facing an existential crisis of its own.
“We are in a new dark age,” he said.
“Our society has become fragmented, our media has become politicised and the media is very corrupt.”
“The most important issue is that the media needs to be more open to criticism,” Professor Li said.
Professor Li Guohei says social media could be the new frontier for China’s authoritarian system Professor David Anderson is a professor at the University of Technology Sydney who studies the Chinese Communist Party and its opaque propaganda machinery.
“There is a danger of a lot of people using fake news and trying to control what the public thinks and feel,” he told ABC News Breakfast.
The rise of fake news, which has swept the world in recent years, has seen a flood of articles about fake news stories on social networks, particularly on China’s social media platforms, including Twitter.
Mr Anderson said fake news often relied on the power of “unverified” sources, which are typically not verified by the news agency that published them.
A person can easily become a fake news source if they are following a “strategic narrative”, a term used to describe an ideology that has gained widespread popularity in China.
There is no official government account that keeps track of all the fake news on social platforms, but Professor Li warned that the Chinese state had “built a system” to ensure that it was not allowed to disseminate information.
He said the state would often use social media as a “weapon” to suppress dissent and create “false narratives”.
“The more people who know about it, the more powerful the propaganda becomes,” he explained.
Chinese state media has long used propaganda to manipulate public opinion, especially in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, where a crackdown on the pro-democracy movement led to widespread public unrest and protests across China.
In December 2017, the Communist Party issued an official apology for the killing of tens of thousands of pro-democratic protesters, saying it had “mistakenly” allowed an armed group to take control of the square.
It said the “incidental” use and abuse of “incitement to violence” in the streets was “a fundamental crime” and “not fit for public discussion”.
President Xi Jinping, in a speech on Wednesday, also said China’s crackdown on dissent had been a “big mistake” and called for an end to the “war on dissent”.
“The people will not accept it anymore.
We must change the way we think,” Mr Xi said.