back to article China cites Trump to justify ‘fake news’ media clampdown. Surprised?

Chinese officials have cited the Facebook “Fake News panic” as a justification for further clampdowns on internet speech and anonymity. Mark Zuckerberg emerged as the latest scapegoat for the victory of Donald Trump last week. Ren Xianling, No.2 at the Cyberspace Administration of China, said internet users posting false …

  1. Chris King Silver badge
    Coat

    I guess...

    Trump declaring his hair to be real was too much for them to take in. I still can't believe it either.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I guess...

      Take heart. Trump has stated that his daily hour of hair care will no longer be possible as Prexy, so he's letting it return to normal.

      What normal is, I could not say.

  2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    I saw that one coming

    "You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before." - attributed to every politician since Pontius Pilate.

  3. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Coat

    "We need to build a Wall"

    Chinese-type Person: "I don't think 'e'll be very keen-- 'e's already got one, you see?"

    Turnip: "What?"

    Bannon: "He says they've already *got* one!"

    Turnip: (confused) "Are you *sure* he's got one?"

    Chinese-type Person:"Oh yes, it's vel' naahs"

  4. NotBob

    Make the Great Firewall Great again, eh?

  5. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    If its true that Merkel was making comments about censoring the internet because of populism (brexit and Trump's win) on the internet then maybe the EU will follow China.

  6. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Windows

    Well...

    If "History is a set of lies agreed upon" (Napoleon) isn't all news fake to some degree?

  7. 2StrokeRider

    There was enough fake news from the news media sites that I suppose China should block all news from the States, and maybe Blighty....perhaps they should block all news that doesn't originate from the benevolent Chinese government.

  8. Florida1920 Silver badge

    Does that include advertising?

    Ren Xianling, No.2 at the Cyberspace Administration of China, said internet users posting false stories should be punished.
    HEADLINE: China endorses ad-blocking.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Does that include advertising?

      My exact thought.

      Most fake news operations have nothing to do with political influence. They are all about money via clickbait.

      So the first place to start is the Chocolate Factory. They make a lion's share of the fake news money, followed by surprise, surpise Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft. After that they pay some pennies to the actual fake news producer and various parasites in the food chain like Taboola and other clickbait promotion networks.

      So if fake news are to be limited, ad blocking is probably the starting point.

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: Well...

      Well, you could say that, but then you've just robbed the word "fake" of any possible use or meaning. It's like saying "look, you can't take a 'pound' into the Bank of England and exchange it for precisely 453.592 grams of silver, so isn't all money fake really?"

      No. No, it's not. There's still a difference between a banknote printed by the aforementioned BofE and one printed by Hasbro.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Well...

        There's still a difference between a banknote printed by the aforementioned BofE and one printed by Hasbro.

        The Hasbro one depreciates less quickly and is softer for stuffing matresses with?

    3. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Hmm

      Populism existed long before the internet. The internet helps it, but censorship would play right into the hands of guys like Trump and Brexit campaigners - "the establishment is out to get us!"

    4. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Does that include advertising?

      If China suppresses all the fake news, Xinhua and all the other Chinese "news" outlets will be just blank web pages.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Does that include advertising?

        If China suppresses all the fake news,

        You never lived on the other side of the Iron Curtain and it shows.

        The trick is not to provide fake news, the trick is to provide selective news. Example: A leaflet circulated during Andropov's days in Schools: "Откуда исходит угроза миру" (Who is Threatening World Peace"). I still keep it for an essential lesson for my kids on how the world works.

        Said leaflet had a very detailed breakdown on state of the art USA weaponry at the time - Ticonderoga missile cruisers, B1-B, etc. And how they "threaten world peace". What it missed is that Ticonderoga Mk 1 is pretty much a 1:1 equivalent with Slava class and Frunze class nuclear Battlecruisers (Peter the Great is an example) will wipe the floor with it. Ditto for B1B vs Tu-160. But you do not put such things in a news item. You FILTER them - you see, here is the threat to world peace and we are not threatening it, no, really no, no.

        Xinhua is a fine example of said approach - it usually does not openly lie. It is just very selective on which truth the proles can have access to.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I saw that one coming

      Agreed. This was so transparently and obviously a self-serving exploitation of the situation by the Chinese government that anyone with half a brain's first response would have mirrored Mandy Rice-Davies'.

      Not that I don't consider the false news thing a problem, just that I can't see anyone in the West- or at least the sort of people who give enough of a toss to pay attention to what China is doing- could see this as anything other than risibly cynical opportunism from a government that has no problem with fakery so long as it suits them.

      Then again, it's probably intended for domestic consumption- not us- and I suspect it'll be taken a lot more seriously in the Chinese media.

  9. Erik4872

    Not to defend censorship or anything...

    ...but Facebook needs to recognize they're just as much an organ of the press as newspapers, TV and radio these days. I've read studies saying that virtually everyone under 30 uses social media and the web as their primary or sole source of news. Actual journalists should be concerned with the ability of groups on both sides of the spectrum to produce slick news pieces that look totally believable. People will click on clickbait regardless of its truthiness, and personally I have a very low level of confidence that the average person is capable of telling truth from fiction. I feel that if a regular, average person sees something on Facebook, they're not going to question it. Don't forget that it's not just computer nerds using the Intenet anymore -- everyone has a smartphone now and the UIs are simple enough for the simplest of people to use.

    Of course, the traditional press has biases. I'm convinced one of the reasons Trump won is because the media emphatically stated he had no chance right up until the last few weeks -- people didn't come out and vote, and the "evil, hateful media" meme riled up Trump's already easily rilable supporters. But, fake news makes it harder for meatier, well-researched stories to see the light of day. I have no idea how to fix this problem, other than Facebook actually curating content. The problem is that this is hard, and it goes against the "peer to peer content sharing" nature of the service. It may be hard, but I do feel something needs to be done to control the spread of outright misinformation while allowing both sides a platform.

  10. Gene Cash Silver badge

    I did hear two people discussing voting by Twitter. They honestly thought they could vote for Hillary by making the appropriate tweet on election day. I stopped and talked to them and they were serious.

    I told them it was bullshit, and they called me a Trump supporter... which I am, but that's beside the point.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Unless that point is whether we should believe this story or not. In which case I'd assume your support for Trump reflects of the level of respect he and his backers have demonstrated for the truth.

      Which is of course impeccable. So I'm entirely prepared to believe your story and dismiss any suspicions I might have had that you either twisted it round or made it up entirely to suit yourself and smear the other side. That's what I might have thought if Trump and his supporters were the sort of people to churn out an endless stream of demonstrable lies.

      Which isn't the case, obviously.

  11. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Surely the definitive put-down to this "fake news" hypothesis is that Hillary actually won the popular vote? (It was the electoral college system that won it for Trump, and the good gentleman is on record as saying he would like to change it.)

    1. smartypants

      Though to be fair to Trump, our figurehead 'post truth' politician, he'd probably argue that whatever he may have said is utterly irrelevant to what he may end up doing. If only we could harness this power for Good. I wondered about a new form of ideal random number generator...

    2. Erik4872

      True, but...

      The ironic thing about the electoral college system was that one reason it was designed was to preserve the popular vote, but have one last circuit breaker to prevent a true demagogue from being elected and not have that circuit breaker be Congress. It's interesting that this was thought of in the late 1700s, when people didn't have 24/7 media coverage from a million sources available. I guess the idea was to have popular representation, but prevent someone from winning solely by making wild campaign promises they could never fulfill, or by manufacturing a personality cult, or by playing on some deep-seated fear. Oh, oops. :-)

      It probably would have worked if some 1700s politician had access to Twitter or something and told the entire country everyone would get $20 million if they voted for him. Back then things had to be pretty sensational to make it into every newspaper in the country. More recent counter-example, FDR was able to win and he was in a wheelchair with polio...again, pre-24/7 news cycle.

  12. smartypants

    Who to punish...

    In this country at least, we could start putting in place a law to stop supposedly trustworthy newspapers from telling outright lies masquerading as truth to their readers.

    How it would work:

    1) Have an independent committee which would look for stories which clearly claim X is true when it is verifiably-false, or vice versa. (This would explicitly avoid subjective claims. A good example though might be claims about what law X says, for example - those 'fact check' sorts of things.)

    2) The newspaper then is required to publish a correction with the same prominence as the original story within a week.

    3) If a newspaper manages to exceed (say) 10 such corrections in a year, they risk being closed down.

    This would probably not cover most stories, but it would stop the 'black is white' bullshit that has poisoned discourse, with good people being led to believe lies by newspapers who have discovered that truth isn't really relevant to sales figures.

    This only would work if there was transparency and trust in the operation and make-up of the committee of course, but how *can* our democracy work properly if good people are fed lies to serve a billionaire media owner's agenda?

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Who to punish...

      Nice try - but who's going to decide what's true? Did Oswald kill Kennedy? The Warren report says he did so it must be true, clearly the CIA had nothing to do with it - but who provided all the information to the Warren commission? The CIA - but we can trust them, I'm sure they wouldn't lie would they.

      Only a Free Press can discover the truth and keep the government honest. Sure, they are not that good at it but they are the best thing we have.

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: Who to punish...

      Remember the News of the World? Shut down following some particularly egregious scandal in July 2011.

      In February 2012, the Sun on Sunday started publishing. Published in the same market, by the same publisher, written by the same journalists and aimed at the same readership.

      That's how effective "shutting a newspaper down" is in our world.

      Apart from that: your "independent committee" would be besieged by post-truth trolls (including, and I'm deadly serious about this, several professionals paid by the Kremlin) questioning their rulings, their competence, and most of all their integrity. You don't have to prove anydamnthing against anyone nowadays - just make the charge often enough and loud enough, and that's it. We've seen it time and again in recent years, and nowadays the politicians don't even try to stand up to it.

      And then there's the whole "what is a newspaper?" question. Clearly The Daily Telegraph is, but what about The Register? What about my blog? Or Facebook?

    3. BongoJoe

      Re: Who to punish...

      There goes then classics such as "World War II Bomber Found On Moon"...

  13. John H Woods Silver badge

    "but how *can* our democracy work properly if good people are fed lies to serve a billionaire media owner's agenda?" -- smartypants

    I agree, but it seems to me that perhaps a better educated electorate is the key. Seems a long shot, I know, but I think it's even less likely that we can solve the problem by attempting to regulate the press.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      but it seems to me that perhaps a better educated electorate is the key.

      Good luck with that one.

  14. William 3 Bronze badge

    Even the Mainstream so called "respectable" News outlets are all at it.

    Or are you going to lie to me and claim otherwise.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend." Mao Zedong

    "using identification systems for netizens who post fake news and rumors, so they could 'reward and punish' them"

    What a shame such a system wasn't in place during the 2016 US Election! Hillary's victory would have been assured and the Great Western Cultural Revolution could have continued unimpeded.

    Instead, we will just quietly laugh at the counter-revolutionaries and their aborted, mainstream propaganda organs. Much better then executing them in public squares or sending them to re-education camps (which is what many of them deserve).

    But that's what freedom looks like, now let's imagine what irrelevance will look like.

    Emulating Communist Chinese censorship and double-think is not the answer, guys. It won't keep your share price up or influence people's opinions on any persistent scale. The internet was designed to route around system failure and data corruption (both digital and human).

    The modern-day thought police must grow up, gather their broken toys and go home. We should accelerate this process by refusing to use their feeble, childish, opinion-warping tools and looking for news elsewhere.

    It will drive the message home and prove that you, the presumed sheeple, can still make up your own minds (even when confronted by evil "fake news" stories and websites).

    Right now, I don't believe the big six corporate, time-warped media sisters can work hard enough to maintain failed narratives. The outright stink of their manipulation is just too pungent. I sincerely hope they find themselves on the wrong end of the FCC Fairness Doctrine, many consumer boycotts, fines and civil suits.

    I also sincerely hope the next 21st Century disruption will see the rise and domination of a truly independent, diverse, (and hopefully non-corporatist) internet media.

    Until then, I will roast more popcorn and continue to watch the farce unfold.

  16. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Definition Problem

    Before one can fix a problem one has to define what is meant by "fake news". Mostly what I see the operative definition is "whatever I disagree with or conflicts with my beliefs" is defined as fake news. It seems as if the debate is not about finding the truth but about posing to look good for one's side. So, for example, some will say a pro-Trump story or pro-Clinton story has to be fake because it challenges their worldview. It does not matter that the story is factually accurate. The facts, being pesky things, are challenging everyone to shut up and evaluate their assumptions.

  17. ChubbyBehemoth

    Ignorance is Strenght

    The point of fake news is not that it is there. It has always been there since the invention of writing. The problem is that sadly ignorant people can't discern real from fake. Or even if they can they will probably prefer the fake as it is more in accordance to their views. Only once a single source would dare to post different points of view and allow for a discussion on it you might get a well informed point of view. I however have to come across the first newspaper that would link to the ISIS websites to have their point of view and adds a link to Breitbart to show two extremes while discussing the merits of the actions of the parties involved. Both views are quite repulsive and use ill logic, but only using the sources you may be able to point out such deficiencies. It is this part of journalism that has not been all that developed over the years in using new technology.

  18. jimdandy

    Re: Ignoration is Strewth

    Brexit. The 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

    People believe what they want to believe, and anything on Facial Book or Twit Err much less the ancient rags of newspapers won't change that. Neither will polemics from the pulpit or education from local authorities. Most people don't think, they "feel". And those who do think (aka research, study, and the use of cognition to determine a reasonable argument for one side or the other) are still subject to the local and personal affects that are a part of their personal, familial and tribal world views.

    "Fake news" doesn't exist. Information exists, and whether or not it is fake is in the eye/mind of the beholder. Race touts hand out free info on who to pick. The barber will freely opine on the current crisis, because part of his job is to entertain as he trims the customer.

    TV news is doing the same thing as the barber, but they have an added agenda - commercial sponsors, owners, and who knows what else. It's up to every individual to determine what "truth" is relevant and important to them.

    The West's patriarchal society has always depended on a thin film of belief, a certain assurance that there are some people "above us" who through birth, experience or education will put together a framework of governance and provenance that will carry us through the ups and downs of our economies, wars, and other minor irritations. A casual study of elections in the U.S. at every level will show that a majority of sitting "representatives" are re-elected regardless of their ability, attention to their constituent's interests, or criminal activities.

    Guess what? The framework is fractured if not broken. Blame the Interweb, blame the Commies, blame anyone you want but it ain't going away until the sheep wake up. Money (the true measure of power outside of nuclear weapons) is the controlling interest in the modern world. And the People don't have enough money (aggregated and controlled in their own interest) to affect the outcome.

    Until a majority of living human beings in all countries have the time, interest and energy to take a hand in the day-to-day operation of their governments we are going to continue to be fucked.

    One might even say that if the Peeps don't rise up in indignation, then they have effectively voted for the status quo. When they do rise up all pissed off and angry, there's no telling what they will do.

    See Brexit and the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

  19. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

    It couldn't happen here, etc.

    Chinese Government is compiling a citizen trustiness score for every citizen:

    >> A whole range of privileges would be denied, while people and companies breaking social trust would also be subject to expanded daily supervision and random inspections.

    The ambition is to collect every scrap of information available online about China’s companies and citizens in a single place — and then assign each of them a score based on their political, commercial, social and legal “credit.”

    <<

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/chinas-plan-to-organize-its-whole-society-around-big-data-a-rating-for-everyone/2016/10/20/1cd0dd9c-9516-11e6-ae9d-0030ac1899cd_story.html

    Of course it couldn't happen here.

    That's Unthinkable!

  20. ProgrammerForHire
    FAIL

    Where is that ...

    Article about how Eric Schmidt was planning to use all Androids to fool everyone into voting for Hillary ?

    Where is that ?

    I really want to read that article !

  21. Bucky 2

    That's kind of the problem, though, isn't it?

    The underlying presumption of Western-style democracy is that voters will vote according to their own best interests.

    What if you had evidence that a large percentage of folks were able to be manipulated to vote against their best interests? How would you engineer around that?

    In the US, we have the Electoral Collage. China's choosing the censorship route. In both cases, it amounts to a kind of Roman Senate of privileged individuals charged to save people from themselves.

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