The Heavy Fist Must Come Out to Deal With Online Rumours (Written Conversation)
The following is reposted from China Copyright and Media with the permission of the author.
This collection of three articles denouncing online rumours was published on 23 August in Red Flag Manuscripts.
Editorial note: recently, Qin Zhihui (online name “Qin Huohuo”) and Yang Xiuyu (online name “Li’erchaisi) who had fabricated and disseminated rumours online for a long time, were arrested and detained, as soon as the information became public, it triggered broad social attention, and the broad popular masses clapped and cheered. The network is not a world outside of the law, malicious fabrication and dissemination of rumours must be sanctioned by the law. So, how large is the harm of online rumours? Where does the root of the excess of online rumours lie? How will it be possible to thoroughly deal with online rumours? Please read the articles in this section of this copy.
Clearly Understanding the Huge Harm of Online Rumours
The rapid development of the Internet has brought people extremely great conveniences, at the same time, it has also provided a channel for a number of people to disseminate rumours online. In the best case, online rumours infringe the individual rights of citizens or social organizations, in the worst case, they cause social panic and endanger national security. National public security organs have together launched a special campaign to attack the online dissemination of rumours and other such crimes, and expanded attack and punishment strength for the fabrication and dissemination of rumours online, these moves are timely and decisive, and have given prominence to the determination and the confidence of the Party and the State to purify the online ecological environment, and have also let even more people clearly understand the huge harm of online rumours.
1. Online rumours intensify social panic. Following the transformative development of information technology, the extent of popularity of the Internet in China has grown ever higher, on the basis of the most recent data, the number of netizens in our country has exceeded 600 million, and is growing at a speed of nearly ten per cent every year. This indicates that, in the near future, the network will cover every corner of the entire country in the same way that radio and television do, this concept “netizen” will no longer exist after the entire population goes online. What merits special attention is that, following the development of mobile information technology, the scale of Chinese mobile netizens has also sharply risen, at present, already 450 million people use mobile networks, among those, more than 400 among them are mobile Weibo users and more than 300 million are Wechat users, this means that in China, one in every three people uses Weibo through mobile phones, and one in every four people uses Wechat. It seems as if everyone can become an information recipient through mobile networks, at the same time, they may also become topic starters and information disseminators. The huge number of netizens and the confused voices has become a complex public opinion field. The era of self-media and micro-information in which “everyone has a microphone, and makes continuous speeches” has arrived. The original online ecology has been thoroughly smashed: in the past, we often used the virtual world to distinguish the differences between the network and reality, at present, the boundary between the network and reality is becoming blurred; in the past, we used “online smoke, offline fire” to explain that an online hot topic might ferment into a hot social incident, but now, online fires are even deeper than the flashpoints of real contradictions. An irresponsible rumour online might easily trigger an eruption of social panic.
After the “23 July” Yong-wen train crash happened, “Qin Huohuo” created the rumour online that the Chinese government had spent 200 million Yuan on high-priced compensation for passengers of foreign nationalities, which was reposted on Weibo more than 10.000 times in only two hours, and provoked dissatisfied emotions of the masses against the government, this put the government’s efforts to deal with the aftermath at a disadvantage. On 21 February 2012, a netizen named “Miduomama” posted information through Weibo that “I went for a vaccination today, the doctor said that Hospital 252 was closed, that the SARS virus had appeared, truly frightening”. This microblog was rapidly reposted online, triggering panic among some of the masses. On the 23th, Officials from Hospital 252 and the Baoding Municipal Health Bureau refuted the rumour stating that, after investigation, the illness patients suffered was the common cold, and was not a case of SARS as played up online. In March 2011, after the earthquake and the nuclear accident in Japan, the netizen “Yuweng” posted information on QQ stating that China’s table salt would suffer nuclear pollution, afterwards, this was reposted and disseminated in great quantity, and in a number of regions in China, panic buying of table salt began, and market order was utterly chaotic…
The harm brought to society by this series of online rumours may be called huge, because of the rapid speed of online dissemination, in combination with the fact that rumour disseminators often, “if they cannot write astonishing lines, will not let go until they die”, online rumours may be diffused across thousands of miles in a very short period, and become a node of factors for instability, when these nodes are hooked up together, they may become fuses triggering sudden social mass incidents. Whenever online rumours are harmful to society, they must be analysed and explained, and remedied, which requires spending huge economic and social capital. Because of this, online rumours extremely easily confuse and poison people’s minds, intensify social panic, and cause destruction of regular social order that is difficult to heal.
2. Online rumours trigger crises of social trust. At present, our country is in a special period of economic transformation and social change, which is also a period of high occurrence of social contradictions. In this special period, online rumours can easily become direct factors triggering social shocks, and harming public security. Some social contradictions that characterize periods of transition have frequently become focus points put up as online topics, for example, the hit rates of the difference between rich and poor, unbalanced resource allocation, the problem of corruption and other such content are very high. online rumour fabricators pander to the feelings of insecurity and indeterminacy in some people’s hearts during the period of transition, and use weak spots in netizens’ hearts to fabricate and disseminate extremely seductive and pernicious rumours, triggering social crises.
In the Qian Yunhui case in Zhejiang, online rumours said that “Qian Yunhui was murdered”; in the Guizhou Weng’an case, online rumours said that “three suspects are all relatives of local leading cadres”, and “the uncle of the deceased person was brought to the police station for inquiry, and was beaten to death”; in the Hubei Shishou incident, online rumours stated that “the deceased knew that the local public security chief and court president’s wife were murdered after they smuggled and peddled drugs with the boss of the Yonglong Grand Hotel”… It seems as if every time a troublesome social phenomenon arises, it is accompanied and instigated by rumours, online rumours tear apart social trust and engender huge negative energy.
Since ancient times, rumours have been the archenemy of social stability, it is said that “public clamour can confound right and wrong, slander can destroy families”, “three people become tigers”, etc., these are all used to describe the “harm” of rumours. Among the many online rumours, the rumours that are aimed at social public persons, social ethics and morals and the basic social system are the broadest. This sort of rumours fundamentally destroys the trust of citizens in government, society and the political systems, creates grave ideological chaos, and influences the faith of the masses in social and economic development. For example, people have fabricated rumours online saying that the first national model worker in the Beijing municipal traffic system was caught for corruption. Although relevant departments have timely cleared up the matter and dispelled the rumours, this rumour has linked up “national model worker” and “corruption”, which objectively influenced the trust of the masses in this lofty honour of the model worker.
Online rumours have always tended towards negative information, in an attempt to use the “bad information effect” to incessantly disintegrate the truth of the matter, and incessantly destroy the structure of social trust. It incessantly magnifies the dark side of society, and incessantly sharpens contradictions, their harm is huge, they not only gravely threaten social stability, but also let the people generate the misunderstanding that society is sinking into the dark, they are bound to lose faith in the society of which they are a part, and their positive energy to promote social progress will be depleted.
3. Online rumours damage the image of the country. Regardless of in which country, online rumours can cause nasty influences, and sometimes may even take human lives. In 2010, Phoebe Prince, a girl from Massachusetts in the US, committed suicide because of slanderous online rumours. Before that, a classmate of Prince’s had disseminated large amounts of rumours on Facebook and other social websites, and had committed personal attacks against her for months on end. After this incident occurred, the students who disseminated rumours were punished, and Facebook began to strongly push for a real name system in order to strengthen online management, but Prince became a victim of online violence.
All in all, in some cases, the background of online rumours is the unintentional act of an individual, but in many more cases, it is premeditated and organized, concealed behind online rumours is harmful information industrialization. “Qin Huohuo” and “Li’erchaisi” together founded the Beijing Erma Company, they plotted to disseminate hot spot incidents online, colluded with a small number of so-called “opinion leaders” to organize an online “navy” that stirred up trouble online for a long time, and sought to win eyeballs and gain benefits through malicious speculation and concocting rumours. According to both persons’ statements, online speculation must “trick” netizens, to make that they think they are the adjudicators of “social injustice”, only by being anti-society, anti-system and anti-country, are they able to rant about dissatisfied feelings about reality, and clamour that “rumours do not stop with the wise, they also stop with the next rumour”.
The malicious online dissemination of false information has become an extremely immense industry. The urge of interests has resulted in the fact that this industry has penetrated into every corner of the Internet, and has shaped itself into a navy especially engaging in sending posts. They manufacture trouble in an organized manner, confuse right and wrong, guide online public opinion, and spread rumours to deceive the people, these rumours contain slander against individual citizens and social organizations, and concoct facts concerning public events, they not only harm individual rights and interest and pollute the online ecology, they also influence social stability and harm the image of the country.
With the involvement or under the guidance of Western hostile forces, a number of people with ulterior motives regularly aim the spearhead of online rumours again the Party and the government, they maliciously concoct facts, engendering huge eyeball effects. Since March 2012, a number of lawbreakers fabricated limitless rumours online, and wilfully disseminated rumours such as “military vehicles enter Beijing, something happened in Beijing” and other rumours, causing nasty social influence. Afterwards, the Beijing public security organs detained 6 rumourmongers, the telecommunications departments also closed 26 websites that “fabricated rumours, disseminated rumours and were negligent in management”.
The online “navy”, especially contains some who attempt destruction in the ideological area, or who attempt to incessantly attack our Party and the Socialist path through disseminating rumours, our blackening the names of historical leaders of our Party and country, we must struggle and punish this part of the online navy and especially the leaders of the “navy”.
At present, we are marching a journey to realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, in this important historical period, we must incessantly consolidate the guiding position of Marxism in ideology, and consolidate the ideological basis for the common struggle of the entire Party and the people of all ethnicities. Online rumours are a cancer in the ideological area, we must soberly and fully understand their huge harm, and adopt powerful means to thoroughly eliminate them.
(The author is an editor at the journal “Ideology and Political Work Research”)
Responsible editor: Wang Nongyuan
The roots of the flood of online rumours
Fabrication and dissemination of rumours online and other such unlawful and criminal activities run wild, which is a grave problem from the past view years that cannot be looked down on, it not only gravely harms citizens’ own rights and interests, and gravely disorders online public order, it also directly harms social stability and national security. In the faces of the flood of online rumours, the broad popular masses continuously strongly call for punishment of online chaos, but until now, repeated punishment results are not yet as one would wish them to be, Qin Zhihui (online name “Qin Huohuo), Yang Xiuyu (online name “Li’erchaisi) and others rampaging online for many years are proofs of this. So, why is it so difficult to deal with online rumours, and were are the roots for their incessant flood?
1. The pluralism, diversity and changeability of people’s ideologies during a period of social transformation, is a direct cause. Following the entry of today’s China and the present world into the online era, especially Weibo, Wechat and other new communication forms incessantly emerge, the unprecedented surge of demands for people’s right to know, right of discourse and right of supervision has become a clear characteristic of the times. Communication methods in the online era are renewed every day, overturning traditional ideological dissemination rules, and breaking traditional ideological dissemination structures, the characteristics of pluralizing, diversifying and changing social mentalities become clearer every day, right and wrong, advanced and backward, mainstream and fringe ideological concepts are mutually interwoven, the noise and din in the ideological area goes on and on, leading to the fact that people’s worldviews, views of life and values are diversified and that conflicts occur, some contradictions are brewing, fermenting and even intensifying in these conflicts. The development of the network has created extremely convenient conditions for the fabrication and dissemination of rumours, and so some people or forces have begun to let other people identify with their own ideology or seek to gain their own interests through fabricating or disseminating rumours and other such methods.
The network is a sort of convenient and low-cost method and channel for society and citizens to let off emotions and express appeals, especially because of the fragmentation, perceptualization, emotification, unilateralization, and even extremization of Weibo discourse and other such characteristics, as well as the fact that its costs are low, it has a strong concealed nature, and allows rapid dissemination, it has become possible to expand the influence of a certain piece of information through variable and infectious dissemination, especially information concerning official corruption, infringement of citizens’ rights and interests, environmental pollution, cruel demolition of housing and relocation of residents, heartless acts of the rich and other such problems; whenever rumours are published online, they easily attract a sympathetic response from netizens, not a few people repost this without distinguishing right and wrong, causing it to become a focus point of many people’s attention rapidly, within a very short time. Relevant departments lack effective supervision and management over this sort of words and deeds, further enabling some people to vent their own dissatisfied emotions through fabricating these rumours, and at the same time becoming online celebrities having many fans, or even becoming so-called “anti-corruption heroes”, “anti-black pioneers” acclaimed by media and the masses, this sort of fabrication and dissemination of rumours may actually add fuel to the flames of the worsening situation of online rumours by bringing fame and fortune to these “models”.
2. The attack, infiltration and influence of the market economy is an important cause. Following the seeming infiltration of the principle of market exchange into every area, interest groups in a number of political, economic, cultural and other such areas have, for the sake of attacking competitors or seeking personal gain, taken the initiative themselves or used public relations companies, market companies, communications strategy organs, etc., to buy a number of new media editors, journalists and even responsible persons, who mutually collude to fabricate rumours and false news, and disseminate this on a large scale in order to achieve objectives that are not to be divulged. In recent years, the mutual attacks that occurred between the two giants of the Chinese milk industry, Mengniu and Yili, is a model case.
A large batch of online pushers have published large amounts of information on the Internet in relation to a certain event, or make a hubbub about something in a focused manner, these organized online pushers seemingly have become “online bohemians” who swarm together in gangs, they guide online public opinion through fabricating and disseminating rumours, and thereby mislead and even control mass public opinion, they do not stint to forge the popular will to reach their goal, they generalize particular problems, the collectivize individual problems, they politicize common problems, etc.
3. Some media enterprises have reformed and pursue profit, and have thereby forgotten their social responsibility, this is a special cause. Following the reform of a number of media enterprises, and under the pressure of intense competition in the media sector, a number of news media, for the sake of pursuing even higher hit rates, viewing rates or listener rates, have not shirked to sacrifice the truthfulness of news, or have even wilfully fabricated and disseminated rumours, pursuing so-called sensational effects, some have even brazenly concocted false news to achieve the objectives of attracting audiences’ eyeballs and gaining profit for the work unit. Also, some news work units have, under the pressure of market competition and for the sake of pursuing advertising profit, covertly sold news coverage under the guise of soft news, etc., publishing or broadcasting unverified advertising or not verifying advertising at all, leading to the fact that this advertising misleads the masses and harms society, especially advertising for number of fake and shoddy products, false medicine, and other such soft news causes huge harm. In recent years, from the “death of Jin Yong” to the salt rush doe to rumours, much false news has appeared first on Weibo. Online rumours and false news are disseminated by some traditional media without verification, gravely harming the credibility of the entire media sector.
4.The infiltration by Western countries in our country’s online and traditional media is an external cause. Western countries rely on their superiority in capital, science and technology in all sorts of news resources, and especially use them to grasp online discourse hegemony, to further accelerate the speed, further expand the strength, further diversify the methods and further conceal the means by which they conduct ideological and cultural infiltration in our country, the network has become an important battleground for struggle in the ideological area. In order to realize the peaceful transformation of China, Western developed countries with the US in the lead, through implementing “cultural imperialism” use their monopolistic position in online information and use the media resources they control, to conduct cultural invasions and ideological infiltration, push their own value concepts, living methods and ideologies. Furthermore, the US and other Western countries not only disseminate some discourse and even rumours attacking our country’s basic political system, economic system, social system, etc., online and in traditional media by purchasing or assimilating a number of domestic officials and intellectuals, through a number of foundations, non-governmental organizations and other such organs, they also purchase and assimilate a number of editors and journalists at news work units, and even borrow a number of opportunities of media enterprise structure reform to intervene by shareholding and share control, first, they control media’s market managerial powers, afterwards, they infiltrate step by step so that in the end, they control newsgathering and editing powers. At present, in a number of online media and even traditional media, rumours attacking our the fundamental system of our Party and country, vilifying the leading persons of our Party and our country and concocting so-called tragic stories about our Party and country appear frequently, which is the reflection of these problems.
It is reported that Qin Zhihui, Yang Xiuyu and other such persons formed online pusher teams, who colluded with a small number of so-called “opinion leaders”, to organize an online “navy” to concoct false news, wilfully distort facts and fabricate disturbances, etc., online for a long time, and even claimed to want to “overturn China by rumour”. That they used the “Guo Meimei bragging incident” to deliberately make a hubbub and maliciously attack the country’s charity and relief system, is a case in point. Now then, who are these so-called “opinion leaders”? Which part did they play? When carefully analysing more online rumours, it is not difficult to discover that not a few online Big Vs who regularly fabricate and disseminate rumours have themselves once committed crimes, not a few spearheads of online rumours are directly aimed at the history, programme and leaders of our Party as well as the Socialist system, etc., behind this, there are those political forces who participate in and even instigate and control matters, these are all problems that should be thoroughly investigated.
5. That relevant departments’ attacks on online rumours are powerless is a crucial cause. In the face of the flood of online rumours, relevant departments have repeatedly dealt with this in the past, but the result was not as intended. What is the reason for this? The powerlessness of the attack is an extremely crucial reason. We see that online Big Vs who wilfully fabricate and disseminate rumours often only are prohibited to post for a period of time, and very rarely have their accounts cancelled, furthermore, the fact that posting is prohibited on their microblog on one website does not impede them to continue to fabricate and disseminate rumours on other websites, giving people the impression that enforcement is only to make a show and going through the motions; some online Big Vs regularly fabricate rumours to attack the history, programme and leaders of our Party, as well as the Socialist system, etc., not a few netizens report them but do not gain a response, and can certainly not see the due process; whether or not online content is a rumour is often determined by the website on which it is published itself, relevant departments’ supervision and rectification over websites, in this regard, is rarely seem; wilful and even malicious fabrication and dissemination of rumours occurs repeatedly on not a few websites, including a number of large commercial websites, not a few netizens also call for strict punishment of the website concerned, but it is rarely seen which large commercial websites are punished; experts have, over the last few years, repeatedly called for the establishment of a website responsibility system where who provides a publication platform is responsible, but it has still not been seen that relevant departments publish corresponding regulations, and even the online real-name system on which such hopes were placed in the past has seen big discounts because of the interference of interests and other such reasons, which has, to some extent, indulged the spread of rumours; furthermore, it has been continuously said for so many years that legal systems to deal with online crime, including online rumours would be established and completed, but corresponding laws and judicial interpretations have hitherto not been completed.
(The author is the editor-in-chief of the “Sunshine Avenue” column on CCTV-& and a second-level literary editor at the China Agricultural Film and Television Centre)
Responsible editor: Li Zhentong
Thoroughly Deal with Online Rumours: We Must Dare to Strike “Tigers” and Manage Websites
The Ministry of Public Security, on the basis of the clues reported by the broad popular masses, deployed public security organs nationwide to launch a special campaign, which is a concentrated attack on organized fabrication and dissemination of online rumours and other such violations of law and crimes, at the beginning, Qin Zhihui, Yang Xiuyu and other online pushes were arrested, as well as corresponding enterprises, gaining social praise. This also indicates at the same time that as long as relevant departments truly bring out the heavy fist and dare to grasp real problems, there can be good result. So, on how it is possible to thoroughly deal with online rumours, the author believes that we should focus our efforts in the following six areas:
1. For political online rumours, the fist must be bravely brought out, and this must be ruthlessly dealt with. This time, the Ministry of Public Security combined the Party’s mass line education and practice movement and clues vigorously reported by the broad popular masses, and deployed public security organs nationwide the launch a special campaign of concentrated attack against organized fabrication and dissemination of online rumours and other such violations of law and crimes, which realistically safeguarded the health and order of the online environment and social order, and gained the praise of the broad popular masses. Furthermore, after the information that Qin Zhihui and Yang Xiuyu were arrested spread, not a few Weibo Big Vs who often fabricate and disseminate rumours, so-called “opinion leaders” whose real name was not verified and others have successively quietly deleted much of their Weibo content that fabricated or disseminated rumours, some even deleted hundreds and thousands of their posts, so that only a few dozen were left, some historical-type rumour fabricating microblog are model examples. This it can be seen that using the sharp sword of criminal law to attack online rumours has been a good beginning. It is hoped that this good beginning can spur all localities’ tempest movements to sternly attack online rumours, that wherever one online rumour appears, one is punished, that all online criminals fabricating and disseminating rumours are ruthlessly struck, ensuring that rumours remain thoroughly far away from the network. Whenever the relevant departments attack online rumours, there are people who use the pretence of freedom of speech to flagrantly censure this. Because of this, we must expand propaganda strength in relation to the campaign where relevant departments bravely bring out the heavy fist and ruthlessly deal with political online rumours, use the opportunity to strengthen education about netizens’ online self-discipline, online civilization, etc. Let the broad netizens clearly understand the huge harm of online rumours, and at the same time, also deeply understand that, as with all freedoms, the freedom of speech is limited. As responsible citizens, they must not only not fabricate or disseminate rumours, they must also vigorously report rumours and actively attack rumours.
2. When dealing with political online rumours, we must also dare to “strike tigers”. General Secretary Xi Jinping said that in fighting corruption, we must persist in striking “tigers” and “flies” together. That we must dare to “strike tigers” in fighting corruption, has not only won strong popular support, but has also had notable effects. For dealing with online political rumours to truly have effect and win popular minds, it is equally necessary to dare to “strike tigers”. At present, one very important reason that the problem of rumour dissemination on microblog is extremely grave, is a number of Weibo Big Vs who have relatively many fans and fabricate or disseminate rumours. Some of these rumour “tigers” directly attack Party and government policies and methods, some wilfully and even intentionally repost false information on official corruption, violent demolition of housing and removal of its occupants, environmental pollution, etc., that may easily instigate sudden incidents or mass incidents, without verification, some wilfully reverse verdicts on Chiang Kai-shek, Wang Jingwei and other historical reactionary persons where a final conclusion has already been made, and slander or attack Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai and other great people from our Party’s history on a large scale, even though netizens’ reactions are strong, relevant websites and especially commercial websites are unwilling to adopt cancellation of accounts and other strict measures, further conniving at mistaken words and deeds and causing extremely harmful consequences. Because of this, we should dare to strictly attack Weibo Big Vs’ fabricating and disseminating rumours and other such acts, where there is a vile influence, accounts are to be closed at once, and for other cases, a strict measure of “a warning the first time, account cancellation the second time” should be commonly adopted and such structures shaped, so that it will be possible to have the effect that one is killed to warn a hundred and the flood of online rumours is thoroughly dealt with. In order to prevent that relevant websites do not act because of commercial interests and other such factors, the State Information Internet Office and other controlling departments must establish open reporting hotlines, that vigorously accept complaints from the broad netizens concerning online fabrication and dissemination of rumours as well as discourse attacking the Party and the government, and adopt corresponding punitive measures.
3. Cadres and scholars must become the main force attacking rumours. Ideological work is an extremely important work of the Party. We should clarify the general responsibilities of the number one leaders in all localities and departments for ideological work, and ensure that the broad Party members and cadres give it high attention, and set the example in attacking online rumour with all their power. With regards to those university and Party school teachers who fabricate and disseminate rumours attacking the Party and government in the classrooms, who wilfully reverse verdicts of counterrevolutionary persons where there already is a historical conclusion, and who defame and attack great persons from our Party’s history on a large scale, and who do not repent and reform after education, it is necessary to firmly eliminate them from educational teams. Where that kind of so-called experts and scholars in all sorts of research organs, including those subordinate to the Party Centre, the State Council, as well as all ministries and commissions, all provinces and municipalities, it is even more necessary to strictly hold them accountable; at the same time, where people and work units fabricate and disseminate rumours for a long time, we must pursue the responsibility of the main leaders of the work unit; concerning those people who receive funding from foreign organs as well as non-governmental organizations, to the point that it purchases large-scale attacks on the Party and government, and to the point that it incites the masses to cause trouble, public security organs and security departments may be requested to adopt corresponding measures after examination and verification.
4. The news sector must strive to become an example of dealing with online rumours. We must summarize the mistaken thoughts of “putting money central in everything”, “relying on talking about hit rates (distribution numbers, viewing rates) in everything”, and overlooking ideological properties in the process of pushing the marketization of the press and publications sector, deeply analyse the huge harm of some newspapers, periodicals, websites and publishers providing platforms for the dissemination of rumours by trading page space, channels, accounts, etc., for the sake of economic interest, severely punish some work units whose influences is especially nasty, and thoroughly correct mistaken methods that still exist at present. The West’s control over ideology is more severe than we imagine, for example, within the “Deutsche Welle” editorial department, there is a post of “ideological supervisor”, all articles must pass “appraisal” before they may be issued. At present, another important reason why problem of rumour dissemination on microblog is grave, is that traditional media blindly report with unverified microblog information as clues, moreover, online media ensures that their influence becomes expanded thousands upon thousands of time because of reposting, resulting in the dissemination of rumours exceeding by far the scope of microblog. Because of this, rigid rules should be brought out, requiring that all media, including mainstream media represented by traditional media and focus news websites, can absolutely not report on matters using unverified microblog information and other such information as clues, and should certainly not report microblog information that has not been verified, regardless of how big the sensational effect that it might have is, in all cases, the principle of the truthfulness of news and social responsible should be closely kept in mind by media from beginning to end, they can absolutely not drift with the tide, and those not abiding by regulations must be severely criticized, investigated and prosecuted.
5. Integrating expanding supervision, complete real-name systems and smooth reporting. Looking from the situation that the flood of online rumours has not been thoroughly dealt with in the past few years, a large numbers of websites and especially commercial websites have clearly been unable to bear the responsibilities that they should bear. Therefore, it is suggested that relevant departments should unitedly establish a platform responsibility system with “who establishes online dissemination platforms keeps the gate, which website is out of order, will be the website whose responsibility is prosecuted” as soon as possible, and establish severe responsibility punishment systems with this sort of responsibility system at the core, regardless of on which websites rumours are fabricated or disseminated, or other such problems occur, there must absolutely be no indulgence, they must be let to bear the corresponding responsibility and even pay the price of closing doors and ceasing business.
One important reason for the flood of online rumours is that those fabricating and disseminating rumours are allowed to use create false names and publish discourse online, and believe that they may avoid legal punishment. At present, among online microblog users, zombie fans not occupy and extremely large proportion, whenever a real-name system is completely and thoroughly implemented, the number of microblog users of Sina, Tencent and other such commercial websites will very likely decrease from the present hundreds of millions to tens of millions, the so-called tens of millions of fans of a Weibo Big V may also reduce to millions or even a few hundred thousands, commercial websites whose commercial interests would be gravely harmed naturally will do their utmost to oppose this. But to thoroughly cure online rumours at the root, a complete and thorough implementation of a real-name system is obligatory. Although the obstacles are great, we should not compromise, yield or even surrender to them. Another important reason for the flood of online rumours is that netizen reporting channels are not smooth and the investigation and prosecution of reported rumours by corresponding websites and relevant departments is not powerful. Because of this, online reporting, telephone reporting, letter reporting and many other forms should be integrated and used, and investigation and prosecution results timely published to society, creating more and better conditions to let the popular masses participate in the campaign to attack online rumours, and mobilize the forces of the entire society to suppress online rumours.
6. Strike hard, according to the law, for a long time, with complete laws and regulations as handhold. The online space is a public venue, online society is a rule of law society. In our country’s present laws, in order to guarantee netizens’ freedom of expression to the greatest extent limits attacks on line rumours generally to administrative punishment, but the good intentions of legislation cannot be used for the benefit of law-breakers and criminals. Online rumour fabrication and dissemination creates a huge harm which indicates that, on the basis of differentiating social harm, strengthening the criminal attack strength against online rumours is not only an important guarantee to stimulate online civilization in a rule of law society, but is also a call and expectation of the popular masses. Using legal methods to punish rumours is a reasonable action that any rule of law country can do, and that should be adopted, conducting criminal law attacks against words and deeds of rumour fabrication and dissemination is also necessary for social development. Because of this, we must persist in conducting a long-term attack against online rumours, and especially must firmly punish the acts of rumour fabrication and dissemination by the so-called dissidents who incite the subversion of the national regime with the support of external forces. At the same time, we must establish legislative high-voltage wires against acts of rumour fabrication and dissemination, to ensure that the broad netizens hold the law in awe. Therefore, we should take the publication of the “Seven Baselines” and this concentrated attack on fabrication and dissemination of rumours as a juncture to expand the strength and speed of legislative processes and revisions, establish corresponding legal norms and institutional norms, and let those who dare to defy the law lose the family fortune, lose wealth and honour, and fundamentally eradicate the soil for the breeding of online rumours.
(The author is a post-doctoral researcher at the Tsinghua University Marxist Theory Post-Doctoral Mobility Station and a vice-secretary at the National Cultural Security and Ideological Construction Research Centre)
Responsible editor: Li Zhentong
Via China Copyright and Media. Reposted with permission from Rogier Creemers.