Police ask netizens to not spread rumors

Updated: 2013-08-22 01:40

By CAO YIN (China Daily)

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Authorities close online company in effort to quash false information

Police and experts are asking netizens to practice self-discipline when surfing the Internet and join the effort to reduce false online rumors.

Beijing police said on Wednesday they have smashed a company that allegedly made and spread fake information on websites for profits, and arrested two men suspected of fabricating online rumors and harming others' reputations.

Yang Xiuyu, founder of the Erma Co, and his employee Qin Zhihui are suspected of using fake information to attract followers, according to a statement provided by the Beijing Public Security Bureau.

Yang and Qin are being held on suspicion of the crimes of provoking trouble and running an illegal business, police said.

Qin, 30, better known by his online name, Qin Huohuo, had alleged on Sina Weibo, China's largest micro-blog site, that the Chinese government had paid 200 million yuan ($32.7 million) in compensation to a foreign passenger after two trains collided in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, on July 23, 2011.

The micro blog was forwarded about 12,000 times within two hours, creating public anger at the government, police said.

The two also allegedly posted online that Lei Feng, a soldier idolized across China half a century ago for his selfless and modest actions, lived a life of luxury.

Qin opened 12 micro-blog accounts to spread fake information since 2011, police said.

Another two employees in the company have also been arrested, police added.

Zhao Feng, an officer responsible for the bureau's micro blog, told China Daily that public efforts are needed to improve the online environment.

Currently, five police officers take care of the bureau's micro blog.

"We receive about 20,000 online messages every day," Zhao said.

However, lots of the messages can easily be identified as fake if netizens think twice before forwarding them.

"So rumors can fade away when every micro-blogger is careful about forwarding online information," he said.

The most difficult task for the police now is to find who posts the fake information first, since the rumormongers sometimes cancel their online accounts quickly, Zhao said.

Cheng Manli, a media professor at Peking University, said self-discipline is necessary and will become more important in the future.

"We should be sensible about using new media, including micro blogs and WeChat," she said. "And we must be careful when sharing ideas or forwarding information, especially about hot topics."

The governmental departments and online service platforms should also provide authorized information in time, to help netizens identify fake ones, she added.

Cui Shaoyu, a micro-blogger in Beijing, said she usually checks online information before forwarding it.

"I follow many authorized micro-bloggers ... and prefer traditional media reports," she added.

Monitor to be improved

Sina Weibo said it will alert Internet users of fake online information and improve its rumor-monitoring system.

Sina Weibo, the largest micro-blogging platform in China, established an online community for Internet users in 2012 to report rumors, the company said. The number of participants is now 20,000.

The committee, which includes anti-rumor and broadcasting professionals, has received about 11,380 reports of fake information and dealt with 11,358 of them, the company said.

Fabricated details, exaggerated facts, publishing old information and interpreting information out of context are common, said Mao Taotao, the Sina Weibo employee who is in charge of the committee.

“We also deal with cases in which someone issued totally fake information online or published photos that were not in accordance with their text,” he said. “In addition, some incomplete information was also identified as fake.”

The platform’s anti-rumor team, established in 2010, has labeled fake information after confirmation and will inform other micro-bloggers with notices in the future, with the hope of purging rumors and warning more netizens at the same time, he said.

“We’re also trying a rule to manage the community and improving our efficiency at handling rumors by cooperating with authorities,” he added.