mandag 12. august 2019

Hong Kong isn't just battling on the streets: There is also a war on misinformation online

It's a viscerally emotive picture. A woman who appears to be pregnant lies on the floor of a subway station. It was taken on July 21, after a mob attack in the Yuen Long district of Hong Kong left at least 45 people injured -- including the woman, a civilian who had been caught up in the attack and became known locally as "the woman in white" or "big belly lady," slang for "pregnant lady" in Cantonese.

On social media, posts alleging that she had suffered a miscarriage were shared thousands of times. As more footage emerged, public outrage intensified over the Yuen Long violence, and towards the police for their alleged failure to protect victims from the baton-wielding attackers, who appeared to target protesters returning home from a march.But then came the counternarrative. She wasn't pregnant, people claimed, and her alleged miscarriage was a politically motivated rumor.

Though local media claim to have confirmed her pregnancy and the safety of the baby, the truth remains contested. Either way, the incident clearly illustrates the power of unverified online rumors to shape the narrative driving the city's worst political crisis in decades.