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An Online Platform From China's Internet Giants Targets The Virtual Rumor Mill

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, August 6 2013

While China has long known how to manage state media, social media has been harder to control. Blocking search terms has had mixed results, and is hardly foolproof. Bloggers in China have learned to avoid the censors using coded or humorous language. In a new attempt to manage social media, six Chinese Internet companies have partnered with the Beijing Internet Information Office on an online platform meant to debunk rumors (or “rumors”) and false (“false”) informations.

“The government is quite annoyed about how the spread of information is getting out of control on microblogs, so they are stepping up control efforts,” Wen Yunchao, a visiting scholar at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, told Bloomberg. He added, “Though there’s little use in this if people don’t believe in the government in the first place.”

The website was up and running August 1. Per Bloomberg:

One entry detailed the rumor a woman in the city of Qingdao was sent a kangaroo when she bought milk powder online from Australia. Qingdao police and customs officials were cited saying they’d never received reports of such an incident, according to the entry. Other rumors refuted include those of misconduct by government officials.

Quartz described the posts as “an incongruous mixture of consumer-friendly information (no, using a cell phone during a thunderstorm does not increase your chance of being electrocuted) and specific denials of wrongdoing, like buying property through ill-gotten gains, by government officials.”

There are already 100,000 statements on the site, and Internet users have more than 30 websites on which they can report online rumors and stories.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.