China tackles rumours
China tackles rumoursIn an effort to stamp out unsubstantiated news stories on social media, Chinese authorities may be curbing free speech.
Yet another rumour has started on Chinese social media sites that the microblogging platform Sina Weibo will soon require all users to identify themselves with their legal names. Currently, most users prefer to use a pseudonym, and the allegation has concerned many.
Bloggers in China are speculating that Sina Weibo could still allow unverified accounts to use the site, but may limit their ability to disseminate content.
The measure, ironically, would be part of a broader crackdown on web-based rumours. At the urging of Communist Party officials, Sina Weibo has suspended accounts suspected of propagating baseless rumours and promoting false news reports.
Chinese social media platforms have a spotty record of attempting to verify users with their real names. One such provider, Baidu, launched a Twitter-like program, known as Baidu Talk, in 2010 that required all users to use their real names and an official photo obtained from the Chinese government. Because of the popularity of using fake names and pseudonyms online, Baidu’s insistence on real names may have lead to the failure of Baidu Talk, which recently closed down.
The Chinese government’s actions toward Sina Weibo and other internet sites come after a flurry of online discussions surrounding milk toxicity, corrupt officials, and the train collision that killed at least 39 people earlier this year. Authorities from the state-run telecom agency have recently shut down thousands of websites that were allegedly spreading false news reports.
But while the government says such online rumour-mongering corrupts social harmony in the country, critics say the authorities are using this issue as a cover for a broader effort to curb government opposition and dissent online.
On today’s episode of The Stream, we speak to Jeremy Goldkorn, editor-in-chief of Danwei, a website that covers Chinese media.
These are some of the social media elements featured in this episode of The Stream.