China to launch platform to fight online rumors

By Liu Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2016-5-12 0:18:31

Most rumors involve national security, terrorism: report

China plans to launch a national whistleblower platform Thursday to crack down on online rumors, a measure to further manage cyberspace.

China's Ministry of Public Security (MPS) and Sina Weibo jointly launched the online platform for tips from netizens on false online information and will release monthly reports to publicize such rumors and related data, according to an e-mail Sina sent to the Global Times on Wednesday.

The platform allows netizens to provide links or upload screenshots of the alleged false information on any social media platform, including Sina Weibo and other online forums.

News about the platform, "The National Platform to Refute Rumors," has been read more than 620,000 times as of press time.

 "Starting a platform where rumors could be quickly quashed meets the netizens' need for sound information but also echoes President Xi Jinping's call for a better Internet environment," Shen Yi, deputy director of the cyberspace management center of Fudan University, told the Global Times.

In a speech at a symposium in April, Xi suggested that China must improve cyberspace management and work to ensure high quality content with positive voices to create a healthy, positive culture.

Xi said that the cyberspace should be imbued with positive energy and mainstream values to create a clean and righteous environment.

According to Sina, Sina Weibo users' accounts will be suspended if they are found spreading rumors, and the police will handle these cases in accordance with laws and regulations.

In June 2015, Chinese Internet police in 50 cities and regions launched accounts on social networking platforms to further combat cyber crimes. 

According to the MPS, the cyber police teams are tasked to identify "illegal and harmful information on the Internet, deter and prevent cyber crimes and improper words and deeds online, publish case reports and act on information provided by the public." 

"It is necessary for authorities to organize  such a platform to  deter  malicious  online rumors and remind netizens that  the Internet is not a platform for lawlessness," Xie Yongjiang, deputy director of the Institute of Internet Governance and Law at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Origin of rumors

Figures released by Sootoo, an Internet data research institution, in August 2015 show that more than 90 percent of netizens are exposed to rumors on their mobile devices, and 45.9 percent of the rumors were started on WeChat and Sina Weibo. The most widely-spread rumors were those related to security - including terrorism, AIDS and infectious diseases.

Xie said that rumors on public events can easily spark panic since they could be quickly and widely spread on social media, whose effects are usually difficult to contain.  

"The MPS is trying to provide a netizen-friendly way of safeguarding cyber security and Sina should also be responsible for building a better Internet environment," Shen said.

Some 197 people were punished for spreading rumors about stock market fluctuations and the Tianjin explosions on social media in April 2015.  Beijing police detained a 24-year-old netizen surnamed Ding for saying "at least 1,000 people were killed in the Tianjin blasts."

But the platform can be run more effectively in improving the cyber environment with the joint efforts of different departments, especially the Office of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs, said Shi.

The Beijing Office of Cyberspace Affairs likewise assists the platform, according to Sina.

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