. . . whether it's actually "fake" or merely "politically incorrect". PC World reports:
The current debate over fake online news has one country feeling vindicated: China. For years, its controversial censorship system has been cracking down on so-called "online rumors," and last week a state-controlled newspaper essentially told the U.S., "I told you so."
"China’s crackdown on online rumors a few years ago was harshly condemned by the West,” wrote the Global Times. “Things changed really quickly, as the anxiety over internet management has been transferred to the U.S."
To be sure, the two are very different.
In the U.S., it’s private citizens and internet companies that are questioning the role of fake news while acknowledging freedom of speech. In China, the government itself is arresting people as part of its concerted effort to maintain control over all corners of the internet.
. . .
So Chinese censors have axed false reports about a celebrity's death or ways to cure cancer. On the other hand, they've also targeted the truth, banning discussion of subjects the government would rather citizens didn’t talk about, [Ng] said.
Censors have been found scrubbing social media posts that mention the death of the Chinese Communist Party or freedom of the press, according to Ng's research.
China claims this is necessary for societal order, and it’s also resulted in the blocking of major U.S. Internet companies, including Facebook, Twitter and Google. Domestic social media services -- which routinely censor posts critical of the government -- have taken their place.
This approach stands at odds with that of the U.S. government, which has supported free speech and been critical of tech businesses that support China’s censorship apparatus. So it’s with some amusement that internet users in China have noted the U.S. debate on fake news.
"The West arrogantly thought they could use their social media networks as a tool to overthrow other countries, but in the end they became a victim of it," wrote one user on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like site.
There's more at the link.
Therein lies the problem, of course. When any 'authority' - be it government, or academic, or a social media company, or whatever - gets to define what news is 'real' and what is 'fake', that amounts to de facto censorship. Free speech cannot exist when categories of speech are either permitted or denied, based upon standards that are obscure and/or politicized. (Besides, if the latter, what happens when politics change? If something is 'politically incorrect' under the Obama administration, odds are it'll be the opposite under the Trump administration - and it'll go back the other way when a Democratic Party administration takes power again in due course. That way lies news schizophrenia.)
George Orwell famously wrote: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." If we allow the nonsense about 'fake news' to continue, you'll be able to replace 'animals are' with 'news is' in that quote, and it'll still be accurate. That's a frightening prospect to anyone who values democracy.