Three organisations have made a joint call for stronger coordination to tackle misinformation on Hong Kong in light of what they described as a global campaign to disrupt public narratives relating to the city’s pro-democracy movement.

The statement on Tuesday came days after social media giant Twitter closed down thousands of accounts worldwide for spreading false information. Those targeted included 4,302 based in China seeking to “sow discord” among protesters in Hong Kong.

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File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Media associations the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Independent Federation of Journalists and NGO the Centre for Law and Democracy signed the statement.

“The wider ramification of the disinformation campaign is a clear and determined effort to undermine independent media’s role in reporting the situation and to confuse individuals, including those most affected by the political crisis,” it read.

The statement called on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to take steps to understand the scope of the misinformation campaign, some of which involved companies practising censorship on behalf of a state.

The three platforms are all censored in mainland China.

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Photo: Studio Incendo.

“More coordination is needed to independently verify the scope of the problem of the disinformation accounts and campaign, which extends far beyond Facebook, Twitter and YouTube,” the organisations added. “A question arises as to how effective these efforts are in stemming such a large scale campaign?”

“There is a critical need right now to track discourse online so as to block efforts by China and other countries which seek to spread disinformation online and to provide greater support to independent media in its efforts to counter disinformation.”

Chief Executive Carrie Lam has publicly condemned the spread of fake news, urging people to be rational when confronting unverified claims. Her comments were made in light of an unverified allegation reiterated by senior government advisor Fanny Law claiming that underaged girls had provided “comfort” to frontline protesters.

September 10 Carrie Lam

Facebook last month said that it found several pages—three groups and five accounts—that were involved in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour.” As many as 15,000 accounts followed at least one of the pages and 2,200 had joined one of the groups. Youtube also disabled at least 210 channels it said had referred to protesters as terrorists or accused them of operating under foreign interests.

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Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.