Cyber rumors must be effectively addressed

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/26 23:28:40

Police have disclosed the preliminary results of the investigation into the alleged child abuse at the RYB Education-run kindergarten in Beijing's Chaoyang district. One of the kindergarten teachers has been sent to criminal detention, which seems to indicate there was abuse.

Another 31-year-old woman, who admitted fabricating fake news claiming that members of the so-called "Tiger Group" - a Chinese infantry division - had also sexually molested the children, is also being held in administrative detention.

Tennis star Li Na and CCTV anchor Wang Xiaoqian were denounced by many Chinese netizens for retweeting a cartoon which insinuated that the "Tiger Group" was involved in sexually abusing children.

Both Li and Wang have implicitly explained or directly apologized.

Once a news item goes viral, there are bound to be many rumors and  much speculation on the Internet along with genuine information. But the rumors are often more eye-catching, which can easily guide public opinion. Take the case of RYB Education, the speculation of the "Tiger Group" was quite absurd, yet it was the object of many people's rage.

The rumormonger is without doubt responsible for that. But obviously, one woman does not have the power to deceive all netizens.

Many people participated in hyping the story, and it was this that empowered the rumor and turned it into a destructive force.

The Internet is like a tropical ocean, and a tiny move of a butterfly's wings might create a huge storm. Internet rumors could be instigated by external hostile forces, however it is not always the case.

Reducing Internet rumors is a major task and it is a baffling puzzle for many countries. So far, effective methods are very limited. China has been through a rough time due to Internet gossip, and so it should speed up the exploration of how to get online rumors under control.

Rumormongers and those that maliciously spread their rumors must face punishment and be held accountable according to law.

The deterrent is essential to ensure the public has the correct attitude toward rumors, so the punishment shouldn't be too lenient.

To curb large-scale rumors, besides legal assistance, the authorities must provide timely information on issues that are likely to trend. If there is an event of public concern, people's request for authoritative information must be met, otherwise, rumors will fill the void. The public opinion incidents in the past have repeatedly proven this rule.

If authoritative information is absent, rumors will go crazy. Even apparently incredible rumors, for instance, children being collectively sexually abused by "Tiger Group" members with assistance of a kindergarten, have gone viral. Many people doubted it, but they retweeted it anyway.

Online rumors can be amplified by the "crowd effect," and in the process, it could be exploited by people with malicious motivation. We must address this situation by uncovering the bad guy, but also by dealing with the "crowd effect."

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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