In the wake of the US presidential election, mainstream Western media, angry about the result, lashed out at Facebook, accusing the social networking platform of ruining Hillary Clinton's bid with an epidemic of fake news. They demanded that Facebook rectify the problem and take responsibility.
Fake viral stories on Facebook listed by US media have included Pope Francis endorsing Donald Trump
, Clinton calls for civil war if Trump is elected, Clinton's affair with Yoko Ono and an FBI agent involved in Clinton's e-mail scandal was found dead. These were listed as proof of how fake stories in the platform's news feeds appeared to smear Clinton while supporting Trump.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg argued that more than 99 percent of news is authentic. But mainstream Western media didn't buy it. A scholar quoted by the Wall Street Journal suggested that Facebook hire more staff to review widely shared articles and delete false news.
During the run-up to the election, mainstream US media offered overwhelming support to Clinton, creating the impression that the former secretary of state was sure to win. Clinton's loss runs counter to public opinion embodied by the mainstream media, therefore they believe Facebook is to blame.
However, media platforms have the right to publish any information in the political field and cracking down on online rumors would confine freedom of speech. Isn't this what the West advocates when it is at odds with emerging countries over Internet management? Why don't they uphold those propositions any more?
China's crackdown on online rumors a few years ago was harshly condemned by the West. It was a popular saying online that rumors could force truth to come out at that time, which morally affirmed the role of rumors. This argument was also hyped by Western media. Things changed really quickly, as the anxiety over Internet management has been transferred to the US.
It's unknown what influences social media such as Facebook, Google and Twitter exerted on the US presidential election and in what way they affected the race. Faced with new media competitors, the analysis by Western mainstream media might be mixed with their emotions.
Nonetheless, at least we can draw some lessons from the controversies.
The Internet contains enormous energy, and the political risks that go along with it are unpredictable. China is on its way to strengthening Internet management, although how to manage it is another question. China is also right in demanding that US Internet companies, including Google and Facebook, abide by Chinese laws and be subject to supervision if they want to enter China market.
Information communication pioneered by the Internet is having an impact on the traditional public opinion pattern.
The Internet may restructure the values of Western society. The Western spiritual world based on the understanding of the elites may be shaken, leading to uncertain results.
Problems and conflicts caused by globalization and informationization have been unleashed in the Internet era, but the Western democratic system appears to be unable to address them.