12 votes

China Is Waging a Disinformation War Against Hong Kong Protesters

7 comments

  1. gpl
    Link
    I was reading a comment thread about the sit-ins in the airport and a large portion of the comments were suggesting that it was done to make the protesters look bad and lose public support. I’m...

    I was reading a comment thread about the sit-ins in the airport and a large portion of the comments were suggesting that it was done to make the protesters look bad and lose public support. I’m not sure if that was misinformation or what but I was surprised to see so many people not understand that large protests pretty much have to be disruptive if they want to accomplish anything.

    I’ve also recently come across some pretty god-awful subreddits that are essentially racist propaganda for the Chinese government, and there too the protests are heavily derided. Not sure how much of that is genuine and how much is ‘planned’ derision.

    9 votes
  2. [2]
    Sahasrahla
    Link
    Right now most savvy internet users (and increasingly many in the general public) know that privacy and security are important topics that they should learn about. It's a bit like exercising or...

    Right now most savvy internet users (and increasingly many in the general public) know that privacy and security are important topics that they should learn about. It's a bit like exercising or eating healthy; whether or not you practice it yourself you know that it would be a good idea to read some guides online and practice better personal security and information hygiene.

    I think a similar cultural imperative should exist for understanding and resisting manipulation. Bad actors from advertisers to authoritarian governments are using the full power of the internet and social media (along with more traditional means) to shape public perception, will, and action. It seeds distrust (is the person I'm talking to even real?) and is a deep corruption of the globally connected social spaces we've built for ourselves.

    Insidiously being smart is no real defense. Campaigns of manipulation and misinformation can hit the weak points of our psychology and we're all human. Right now though, unlike if I wanted to learn how to use a VPN or privacy-focused tech, there's a dearth of practical information on how to recognize and resist manipulation campaigns in this relatively new hyper-connected world. Most information out there at the moment (like the book mentioned in the article seems to be, or even the article itself) is more descriptive and about recognizing that there's a problem at all. (Which, to be clear, is also important and a good first step. For anyone who hasn't read the OP article go back and do so, it's great and a must-read for anyone who cares about Hong Kong or who wants to better understand what's happening.)

    Of course I don't have a solution myself. A project like the one I'm wishing for is a lot more complex than a mostly technical problem like how to use a password manager and I think a lot more research is needed to really understand the problem and to find solutions. Then there's the other side of the coin about what tech companies and (hopefully well-meaning) governments can do for their part; though, that at least has received quite a bit of attention, at least in focused areas such as Russian manipulation campaigns in western democracies.

    To finish this "someone who isn't me should really do something" comment with something a bit more practical one thing I can recommend anyone interested do is read the book Influence: Science and Practice by Robert B. Cialdini. It's a sort of "defense against the dark arts" type book that, ostensibly, teaches the reader how to be more resistant to manipulation by learning many of the tricks behind the practice. It's an older book (published in 1984, ha) but interesting nonetheless. At the very least reading it can get one thinking about this ever more important topic.

    9 votes
    1. borja
      Link Parent
      Influence is a great book. I'd also recommend to read more books about Neuromarketing. Even though there's a lot of BS in that field, reading its basic principles is a great way to understand how...

      Influence is a great book. I'd also recommend to read more books about Neuromarketing. Even though there's a lot of BS in that field, reading its basic principles is a great way to understand how persuasion actually works when we're able to understand the brain. I think Buyology is a good start.

      To your point, @sahasrahla, this is of course a really complicated problem. We could try to find solutions, but I'm afraid we'll only find answers as we get experience along the way.

      One of my main concerns regarding this conversation is that even if you have a really strong digital hygiene, you can still suffer the consequences of this propaganda (and I believe propaganda is just the tip of the iceberg).

      3 votes
  3. fandegw
    Link
    What I find very interesting is the similiraties between the way the protests are treated in Hong-Kong and the Gilets Jaunes movements in France. From the media coverage (if I trust this article...

    What I find very interesting is the similiraties between the way the protests are treated in Hong-Kong and the Gilets Jaunes movements in France. From the media coverage (if I trust this article on the propaganda in mainland china) to the police brutality, there is a good amount of similarities.
    We can approach this treatment from a "superior" point of view of our democracies and supposedly free press, but we are not so far from the handling of these movements by China.

    5 votes
  4. [3]
    Diet_Coke
    (edited )
    Link
    I dont know if anyone else here listens to a lot of NPR, but it seems like they're taking the Chinese side, or at least being irresponsible. This morning they were talking about an episode in the...

    I dont know if anyone else here listens to a lot of NPR, but it seems like they're taking the Chinese side, or at least being irresponsible. This morning they were talking about an episode in the HK airport yesterday where protesters beat up two mainland Chinese men who they thought were spies. NPR's correspondent then says with apparently a straight face that 'as it turns out one of these men was a journalist at one of China's most nationalist tabloids' - aka the protesters were right. They go on to talk about how this hurts the protesters cause.

    Edit: BBC did the same thing, and also talked about the instance where a policeman had his batton taken away and was beat with it. They neglected to mention that he was in the process of beating an innocent woman who was laying helplessly on the ground.

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      bbvnvlt
      Link Parent
      To me, both of these are also examples of what seems to happen more generally with protests: a tiny minority does something violent, which is or at least looks like the most exciting event of the...

      To me, both of these are also examples of what seems to happen more generally with protests: a tiny minority does something violent, which is or at least looks like the most exciting event of the day, so that is what gets covered in detail, instead of the boring 99% of them holding up placards and being bravely non-violent.

      2 votes
      1. Diet_Coke
        Link Parent
        I'm always extremely skeptical of news coverage of protests. I've actually participated in a bunch of them that made it to the news. If there are no incidents of violence they will wade through a...

        I'm always extremely skeptical of news coverage of protests. I've actually participated in a bunch of them that made it to the news. If there are no incidents of violence they will wade through a crowd of 'normal' looking people to find the one guy with a neon mohawk and facial piercings to interview. They will interview you and edit the footage to obscure your message. They will show up to an action early, get some footage, and then act like that was during the main event to downplay its popularity. That's just the media, not even getting into the likelihood of bad actors pretending to be part of the movement and causing trouble.

        2 votes