The Missing Hashtag

It all started with a simple joke.

As we know, China does not have a movie rating system, but the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) is responsible for censoring scenes of obscene, violent, and other inappropriate content. During the huge blockbuster of James Cameron’s magic epic film Titanic in 3D, Chinese censors removed the famous scene in which Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Jack, sketches a nude Rose, played by Kate Winslet.

This is where the joke I mentioned above comes into play: a Chinese cinemagoer posted a piece of Weibo content (Chinese type of Twitter) trying to humorously express his displease of the censorship cuts, writing a tweet along with a hashtag of “#FakeNews”:

Considering the vivid 3D effects, China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) feared that viewers may reach out their hands for a touch and thus interrupt other people’s viewing. Therefore, SARFT has decided to cut off the nudity scenes.#FakeNews

No one could believe that this evident joke had been spread incredibly fast worldwide in the coming days, with people copying and pasting the message while leaving out the hastag, “#FakeNews” while inadvertently making the statement true. ABC News and Hollywood Reporter referred to it in their press release as a credible source, with the ridiculous part being that even the Film Director, James Cameron believed it to be true.

When there is no barrier between the Internet and the media, it is hard to distinguish the truth among rumors. Social media is an evolutionary tool to post news while spreading rumors. While learning of this story, I could not help thinking, are we immersing ourselves in the fake news pool?