The name of the new site translates as “websites jointly debunking rumors platform”, and allows users to send in questionable content for verification. With Chinese government guidance, the website will then respond with a “correct” version of the information.
Web giants contributing to the site include search engines Sogou and Baidu, and the microblogging service Sina Weibo. According to the state-run Global Times, the site has already published and corrected some 100,000 bits of misinformation since it was launched Thursday.
China has the highest number of Internet users in the world, with over 500 million people online, and 300 microblog users. Although Beijing censors the services, the speed with which online information can be spread has proven an enormous challenge for the government.
China’s microblogs are often used to disseminate rumors, but they have also become a way to spread news about protests, scandals, and of venting public anger towards the government over incidents like the Wenzhou bullet train crash.
State media responded to that incident with editorials comparing the social damage caused by online rumors to hard drugs like heroin and cocaine.
The state-run Global Times has praised the government’s rumor-busting campaign, saying that online rumors “can cause widespread panic, disturb the order of society and damage the government’s credibility.”
But critics argue that the so-called “anti-rumor” campaign is just an attempt to censor criticism and control public opinion, pointing out that the government is trying to sugarcoat censorship by portraying it as a public health measure and silence debate on controversial topics. Image/CNN