Fake Hong Kong Police support letter – analysis of fake news

As demonstrations in Hong Kong reach their thirteenth week, a fake support letter from WA police has been in circulation this week. Spread overnight from Chinese social media pages, officials state this letter is not from the WA Police Force.

The fake letter, supposedly written by a former WA Police Officer, shows tremendous support for Hong Kong Police.

Signed from “your brothers and sisters in Western Australian Police, past and present’ the letter also has two WA police shoulder badges on either side, with the Chinese characters reading ‘Go Hong Kong Police’

In a statement from WA Police, they confirmed this letter was sent without the knowledge, consent or authority of the agency.

They also detailed it is out of practice for WA Police officers to comment on political matters, especially those occurring outside its jurisdiction.

“I think that what we’re seeing now though is for a while everyone new that people would tell lies but a photograph was true, and then say ‘yeah yeah but you can photoshop’, but a video is true, but now you can fake a video… So the work that you have to put in to establishing truth is a little bit harder…”

Adjunct Senior Lecturer at ECU, Dr Kayt Davies, believes fake news is too easily distributed, but as consumers of news we need scepticism to ensure quality and trustworthiness of what we’re reading.

She said one of the biggest problems in politics at the moment is people will latch onto a certain party and will cheer for it no matter what it says, and they will give it credibility even when what it’s saying is not necessarily true.

“And to bring it back to Hong Kong, I think this is some of what’s happening there, people have chosen a side they’re either pro police or pro protestors; and they’re very prepared to believe whatever supports those beliefs,”

Dr Davies explained fake news has always been part of human communication and there will always be gullible people that believe their lies.

“The trick is to be aware of it with critical thinking; it’s a valuable skill really worth developing,”

This raises questions over the integrity of real journalism in comparison to citizen journalism, with part of that being the journalists working hard to develop trust.

The breaking news function of media is being subsumed by citizen journalism, causing fact checking and trust building to be a priority.

Dr Davies said if you want to trust what someone says, you have to trust their processes, ehthics and principles.

“News organisations really need to work hard at developing trust and convincing people they’ve checked their facts,”

“I think trust is a really important conversation to have – we need to learn to adjust our beliefs, because new information is going to arise and we need to consider how trust is developed and who we trust,” she commented.

Dr Davies continued: as humans we have control over very few things, but we do have control over what we believe.

She thinks we can be very cautious about who we believe and therefore what we believe.

So will it get worse?

“I think it’s always been bad, humans are creative and they will tell lies…”

“As a quality to nurture, scepticism’s got a lot in it’s favour,” Dr Davies concluded.

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