There were numerous rumours circulating on social media and online forums during the 2016 Legislative Council Election on 4 September 2016. One of the most notable ones is about the missing corner on the ballots.
It started off when people shared their experience at polling stations on social media. This is a post from the political Facebook page HKValiant about someone who discovered a missing corner on the top left corner of his ballot and suspected that it as a way for the government to avoid counting votes casted for the pan-democracy camp, i.e. ballots with a missing corner casted for the pan-democracy camp would be treated as spoiled, but that casted for the pro-Beijing camp would not.
The news of the missing corner soon triggered widespread discussion on social media and online forums as more similar cases were reported. In this discussion thread on the HKGolden forum, a netizen stated that according to sources, those ballots with missing corner were purposely distributed only to young voters (since younger generations tend to support the pan-democracy camp).
Some Facebook pages started reminding netizens to beware of the issue. In the fourth point in this “Attention to Voters” chart created by another political Facebook page Henry Tang’s Big Earthquake, it mentioned that there should be no missing corner on the ballot. The chart attracted wide attention with over 1,800 likes and 1,724 shares. However, someone pointed out in the comment section (marked by the red rectangle) that the missing corner on the top left corner was, indeed, completely normal.
In the evening of that day, the Chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission clarified by saying that the missing corner on the top left corner was purposely placed to cater for the need of visually impaired voter.
This incident demonstrated the problem of social media. First of all, the suspicion made by the anonymous someone was subjected to his political views and impression of the government. Also, the so called sources mentioned in the post on the HKGolden forum might not exist as the netizen is anonymous and unlikely not be held accountable even if he/she has made things up. Furthermore, the Facebook page that created the chart did not verify whether it is normal to have a missing corner and thus further help spread the rumour. Even though there were netizens pointing out in the comment section that it is totally alright to have one missing corner, the comment has a much lower influence than the chart itself (1,800 likes v. 6 likes).
It is important not to rely on social media as the sole source of information. Even if we have a political stance, we should always verify the information that is in flavour of our stance. In this case, one of the reasons why people were spreading this rumour was because their fear of the government controlling the election had affected their judgement of determining the truthfulness of the information. There are, indeed, various ways to verify this rumour. One of which is to simply consult ‘experienced voters’ who have voted in the past before. Another much more reliable method is to look for a sample of the ballot on the government website. In fact, this is what some of the media has done while reporting this rumours. Below is an article from Apple Daily saying that the missing corner are seen on the ballots shown in the official election promotional video.