False alarm click bait renews calls to curb false information

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By Li Qingqing

“Chinese students studying abroad can enroll at China’s higher vocational schools after returning to China because of the pandemic.” Welcome to the latest hot topic lighting up Weibo following comments made by Ni Minjing, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee. He suggested solutions for Chinese students studying abroad but cannot continue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unsurprisingly, the topic triggered controversy on Chinese social media platforms. “If I am an undergraduate student at Harvard University, then does that mean I can only go to Lanxiang Vocational School after returning to China because of the pandemic?” A Weibo user asked, commenting, “What about my Ivy League diploma?”
But in fact, most Chinese netizens have misunderstood Ni’s suggestions. According to Ni’s interview with the People’s Daily on Tuesday, his suggestions were not aimed at the students who temporarily return to China due to the epidemic, but at those who have difficulties finishing their studies abroad and have no alternative but to return to China.
Ni offered three solutions for these students: For those who accept studying at China’s higher vocational schools, they can directly enter those schools without taking any exams; for those who want to enter Chinese universities, they need to take exams and officially register as university students after one year if they pass all the tests; besides, a mechanism should be established to transfer some credits completed abroad to Chinese universities.
These sound like very comprehensive and reasonable suggestions compared with that “click bait” headline on Weibo. Numerous factors play into reasons for why students must cease their academic pursuits overseas.
Therefore, if they want to continue higher education in Chinese universities, they will have to give up all their accomplishments abroad and start it all over again. These students are indeed facing a dilemma.
Given these real-time scenarios amid ongoing pandemic, Ni’s suggestions are practical and considerate. He was not forcing these students to belittle themselves by making them enter vocational schools. He was providing serious plan Bs to minimize their loss. Ni does not deserve all this social media mockery and unfair slander.
However, it is always convenient for the netizens to quote out of the context and heckle. Most of them see a short headline and then start to make comments hastily. They lack the patience and care to read the whole article. And their senses are always easily provoked.
Some netizens even tend to believe in sensational rumors because the truth always sounds less exciting. In Ni’s case, far fewer netizens chose to forward his entire interview with the People’s Daily as they found the truth disappointingly boring.
This has become an unhealthy trend on social media platforms. Some netizens proactively voice their views on Weibo but they are also very good at spreading and hyping up false information. As more and more people join in, there will be a spiral of silly sentiments. The truth will be submerged in seas of false speculation and shadow conjecture.
Social medial platforms need to shoulder more social responsibility. For example, Weibo can use its recommendation algorithm to push truthful information to more people – and flag false information as rumors. For those who always intentionally fabricate or spread rumors, there should be punishments such as banning their comments for several days. Or more.
More importantly, netizens need to open their eyes wider, make comments more carefully, and know the whole truth before letting their emotions get provoked. This should be a social consensus. After all, we are all living in an era of information overload. It is our responsibility to treat all information more carefully, and to differentiate truth from rumors.
–The Daily Mail-Global Times news exchange item