The Great Firewall of China: Regulators extend control to news reporting of social media

Regulators in China say they are cracking down on false reporting by news agencies gathering information from social media. Photo /File
Regulators in China say they are cracking down on false reporting by news agencies gathering information from social media. Photo /File

With the proliferation of news, information and imagery made more instantaneous than ever, social media has been a boon to the media industry in recent years.

While the industry and even the public struggles to keep up with the pace of the ever-evolving medium, simultaneously trying to exploit it for benefit while trying to mitigate its risks and dangers, it remains largely an unregulated frontier of information, especially in the Western World.

In the face of this, Chinese regulators announced they will launch a crackdown on the reporting of news gathered from social media, The Guardian reports, in an effort to counter what the government calls as the spreading of false news and rumours.

In a statement late on Sunday, the Cyberspace Administration of China said that online media cannot report any news taken from social media sites without approval: "It is forbidden to use hearsay to create news or use conjecture and imagination to distort the facts," it said.

"All levels of the cyberspace administration must earnestly fulfil their management responsibility for internet content, strengthen supervision and investigation, severely probe and handle fake and unfactual news," the regulator added.

The Chinese government already exercises widespread controls over the internet, officials say internet restrictions, including the blocking of popular foreign sites like Google and Facebook, are needed to ensure security in the face of rising threats, such as terrorism, and stop the spread of damaging rumours.

According to the newspaper People's Daily China, the Cyberspace Administration of China has punished some major websites which have fabricated stories this year, including the site run by one of the country's biggest internet companies, Tencent.

In one reported case, a journalist from the Caijing Magazine wrote a story in February based on fabricated online content describing a village in northeast China where villagers do not respect the elderly and women are promiscuous, and the story went viral.

Although China's state censorship is notoriously strict, could this pragmatic concept set a precedent for more liberal countries to start looking at?

- NZ Herald

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