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State Internet Information Office to Go After Big Names on Weibo
Summary:The agency is offering rewards to web users that inform them of accounts that are spreading false information.

May 2, 2013
Translated by Pang Lei

The State Internet Information Office, an agency established by the central government in 2011 to monitor and regulate the Chinese internet, has launched a national campaign aimed at cracking down on people "spreading rumors" online, according to a report carried by Xinhua News Agency earlier today.

The Xinhua report, citing unnamed sources at the office, states that the regulator has already launched an investigation into individuals in Guizhou, a province in Southwest China, on suspicion that they used the internet to spread rumors.

Two individuals surnamed Li and Gong respectively, are said to have used their Sina Weibo accounts to claim that Bird Flu had spread to Guiyang, the capital city of Guizhou province. The individual surnamed Gong was detained for 10 days and the other person was detained for 5 days by the Public Security Bureau (PSB). The State Internet Information Office also closed down the Weibo accounts of both individuals.

An unnamed spokesperson from the regulator's office for online news coordination told a journalist from Xinhua that it sometimes happens that a small minority of web users spread all kinds of rumors online. Some spread images aimed at slandering other individuals. While verified Weibo accounts with a lot of followers ("大V"账号) often use the method of writing "demand a denial" (求辟谣) or "ask for verification" (求证) to deliberately spread rumors. This causes some web users who are unclear about the facts of the matter to follow their lead and thus harms the credibility of online media and disrupts the orderly dissemination of information. The report goes on to say that the general public detests this kind of behavior.

The department in charge of monitoring internet content is said to have focused a great deal of attention on this phenomenon for some time now. While strengthening its everyday work of enforcing the regulations, the department also plans to carry out a concentrated crackdown on such behavior.

An unnamed spokesperson from the State Internet Information Office is said to have emphasized that starting and spreading rumors online is illegal, according to the Xinhua report.

The article states that China's criminal law includes provisions for prosecuting people if they spread rumors, such as the charges of "incitement to subvert state power" (煽动颠覆国家政权), of spreading false market-sensitive information, spreading false information that damages the reputation of individuals, companies or trademarks or of concocting terrorist information.

The State Internet Information Office plans to act on tip offs from web users and its own searches to investigate websites, Weibo accounts and WeChat accounts around the country that have made a habit of disseminating false information.

The article also says that the office will offer rewards to those who provide tip offs about accounts that are spreading rumors.

Links and Sources
Xinhua News Agency: 国家互联网信息办部署打击网络谣言

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