Typhoon Manghut- Fact or Fiction?

By Matthew Greenaway @TactileScript

We woke up this morning to survey the destruction left in the wake of super typhoon Manghut. Hong Kong, Southern China and the Philippines have survived the strongest storm on record and are left to count the cost.

At this time the death toll is still rising, as emergency crews in the Philippines work tirelessly to rescue people from landslides and collapsed buildings. In Macau, residents are left to save what they can from flood damaged homes and businesses. In Hong Kong the reported power of recently-retired Li Ka Shing holds strong, and people wearily pick their way through the detritus to get to work and ensure the Hong Kong economy marches on. Physical destruction of property, infrastructure and life aside, the wind-battered citizens have a new problem to face.

The proliferation of fake news during an environmental emergency has left people questioning what they can believe.

Hong Kong is a modern city with unfettered access to the latest technology. At the height of the typhoon, during which trees were felled, buildings crumbled and residents cowered in fear while their towers swayed; thousands of pictures, videos and comments were uploaded to social media.

The best of these provided support, information and companionship in the worst of times, like the brave souls aboard the marine department vessels that went out to rescue sunken craft and marooned pets or people. But some of the most most-shared and inflammatory posts during the typhoon were works of pure fiction and Photoshop.

A Facebook video of a passenger plane rolling and yawing as it tried to land in China, a tornado purportedly uploaded to YouTube in Hong Kong, and widespread reports of looting in Luzon, all had one thing in common. As the orange man across the pond once said “Fake News!”

In this age of smart phones and social media do we need to regulate the media companies that spread false information, or regulate ourselves and what we share in times of crisis? Do we rely on our fellow citizens’ democratic right of free speech, to only provide clear and helpful information? Or is it time that the companies we trust with all our information, take responsibility for misleading the public?

As we clear up after this devastating typhoon, and perhaps look forward to increasingly powerful disasters in the future, we need to consider how we can support citizens of the world to spread clear, reliable information, and how we recognise news that may be less than truthful.

Stay safe and stay informed everybody.

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