Chinese internet censor bans unverified news
Mon 4 Jul 2016
The online censorship authority, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has just issued a warning to all news and social media websites in China, requiring that online news must be verified before it is posted or the websites will be subject to penalties. This comes just days after the CAC began requiring that app developers monitor users and record their activities online.
A directive issued by the CAC today states, “No website is allowed to report public news without specifying the sources, or report news that quotes untrue origins.” The Cyberspace Administration will require online media outlets to bear responsibility for internal monitoring of all news reports that are published online, verifying source material and accuracy of the facts as written.
The CAC directive went on, “All websites should bear the key responsibility to further streamline the course of reporting and publishing of news, and set up a sound internal monitoring mechanism among all mobile news portals.” It also noted, with a nod to social media sites Weibo and WeChat, “It is forbidden to use hearsay to create news or use conjecture and imagination to distort the facts.” Online media outlets who post fabricated or unverified news will be subject to penalties or punishments, although the statement today does not specify what those may entail.
In a statement late Sunday regarding the new directive, the CAC said, “All levels of the cyberspace administration must earnestly fulfill their management responsibility for internet content, strengthen supervision and investigation, severely probe and handle fake and unfactual news.”
The government media ministry Xinhua reports that the Cyberspace Administration has already issued penalties to major Chinese websites accused of fabricating news stories, including sina.com, ifeng.com, 163.com, and a news site run by Tencent, one of China’s largest internet companies.
Xinhua noted a specific case, in which a reporter from a respected magazine fabricated online content in a story that went viral, “describing a village in northeast China where villagers do not respect the elderly and women are promiscuous.” Presumably the magazine was subject to the unspecified penalties or punishments that are mentioned in today’s announcement.
The new directive from the CAC comes soon after a change in leadership at the government’s internet censorship body. Just days ago, Xu Lin, widely regarded as one of President Xi Jinping’s key supporters, replaced Lu Wei as the head of the CAC.