A deep distrust of police and authorities may fuel the spread of rumors among protesters, with outlandish claims and conspiracies taking root, despite repeated official denials.
This is partly because, one protester told AFP, people see videos of police or suspected triads attacking protesters online but no disciplinary actions or prosecutions, further undermining trust. “Police are the law now,” they said.
In this febrile atmosphere, people seem more inclined to uncritically accept information they see that supports their viewpoint and “fake news passed on from person to person” can take on a life of its own.
“As violent action on both sides escalates and people become more galvanised in their beliefs… disinformation that confirms previous beliefs (is) widely shared,” Nathan Ruser, a researcher with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s International Cyber Policy Centre, told AFP.