Two weeks ago, New Zealand shooting video went viral on social media sites as the shooter opened fire at worshippers at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, killing innocent people one after another. As a gruesome fan club cheered on in real time, the perpetrator enjoyed the power and fame provided by the online coverage. As the comments and applauds flooded in, the gunman’s action was encouraged, another round of bullets was loaded, and more victims’ lives were lost.
The internet is the hotbed for horror messages. In early Feb., a fake story claims that Ottawa crack down on OAS fraud in the Chinese community went viral on many Chinese online media sites, spurring horrors among elderly Chinese immigrants. “The elderlies were terrified by the news…. They couldn’t sleep at night and many giving up the application altogether after Ottawa’s new policy.”. The story was quickly spread on the internet, copied and carried by media sites from Vancouver to Toronto. The nightmares suffered by Chinese seniors could bring excitement and joy to the fake newsmaker.
Falsehoods travel much faster online than facts. According to a recent MIT study, fake news was 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than the truth. The message distributors were not automatic bots but humans at their keyboards, who feast on the horrors and resentments they are spreading.
It is the reactions from the commentators and onlookers that motivate the perpetrator. “Those collecting money from both countries deserve punishment and they must pay the money back!” posted the comments to the fake OAS news. The praise expressed, the cheers lauded, and even the condemnation tweeted would bring the attention needed and the chilling effects desired. “The posts, views, and comments made them feel that they’ve stoked the fire,” said Barbara Perry, the Director of the Centre on Hate, Bias, and Extremism at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
The online sensation brought by the horror content is the key motivator for copycat actions. The large volume of tweets over school shootings has elicited more copycats’ responses. Research studies show a strong link between the online coverage of massacre and how soon the next shooting event would occur. Apparently, with the OAS fake story flooding the Chinese online media, it takes no time for the next phony story to appear.
It is incredibly difficult to stop the terror from spreading online. The OAS fake news has remained online, while the New Zealand shooting video stayed on the internet for hours before social media companies scrubbed it. It took substantial efforts – including using search algorithms and linguistic expertise – to delete hate speech connected to the shooting. To remove them is like playing “an unwinnable game of Whac-A-Mole,” says a Globe columnist. “You can regulate it, or move some content, but it will show up again.”
To stop fake news from spreading proves more challenging, as they are more difficult to spot, even among educated people. The false OAS story appears to have ceased from spread after Chinese News took steps to verify the false information and published its investigation report:” Has Ottawa launched a crackdown on OAS fraud by immigrants from China?”
Your story has brought us a peaceful mind,” says an elderly reader. However, if journalism cannot win the war against fake news and terror, more suspects will succeed in fueling false and fear, and more people’s lives would be in danger.
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