Chinese internet regulators warned the media to stop using news found on social media without first asking permission from the government.
Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) released a notice Sunday stating its intent to stop the media from reporting fake news. The notice does not ban the media from obtaining news from social media overall, but warns, “No website is allowed to report public news without specifying the sources, or report news that quotes untrue origins.” The regulating agency added, “It is forbidden to use hearsay to create news or use conjecture and imagination to distort the facts.”
The regulators shamed numerous outlets by name that widely circulated fake news stories, and reiterated its commitment to punishing those that violate the policy.
“Sina.com, Ifeng.com, Caijing.com.cn, Qq.com and 163.com, had been punished and given warnings for fabricating news before distributing it,” the notice stated.
One of the allegedly fabricated stories involved a city girl visiting her boyfriend’s family in a rural part of China. The girl allegedly broke up with her boyfriend after noticing the family’s meager living quarters and humble socioeconomic status. The government claimed the story is false, and harmful to the nation.
CAC ordered its regional offices to increase supervision and to “severely punish fake news or news that deviated from the facts.” Officials say that several outlets were “punished and given warnings for fabricating news before distributing it.”
The Chinese government already exercises heavy handed controls over the media and internet. Popular foreign sites, like Google and Facebook are banned in China, and the government is continuing to codify state control over the media into its laws. The government cites the threat of terrorism and the spreading of false rumors as reasons to censor the news.
The notice came a week after CAC’s former head, Lu Wei, stepped down and was replaced by his deputy, Xu Lin. Wei was known for his work to increase state surveillance capabilities and censors online media. His attitude towards Western technology firms upset many in the tech community, who complained to top Chinese government officials about Wei’s positions, which hindered foreign competition in the Chinese market.
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