China scrubs online rumors from Internet, shuts down sites

Chinese authorities removed 21,000 online posts in a government crackdown on rumors

China has taken down more than 210,000 online posts and closed 42 websites since mid-March as part of a crackdown on Internet rumors, which authorities claim represent a danger to society, officials said Thursday.

The Chinese government strictly censors any sensitive or anti-government content. But the political chatter online has grown in recent weeks because of a controversy surrounding a top official, Bo Xilai, who has seen his career plummet and is now linked with an investigation of alleged homicide of a British businessman.

China ordered earlier this month Twitter-like microblogging platforms to temporarily prevent users from publishing comments on other users' postings. The microblogging sites said this was done in order to clean up what they described as harmful illegal information on the sites.

On Thursday, Chinese officials noted Internet users had been fabricating rumors that said military vehicles were in Beijing and that the city was in trouble, according to the state-run press Xinhua News Agency. Relevant ministries have taken a series of actions to investigate and prevent further rumors. This led to the detention of six people, who allegedly fabricated online rumors.

Authorities are also focusing on the alleged online rumors spreading on the country's microblogging platforms, said Liu Zhenrong, an official with China's State Internet Information Office, according to the Xinhua report. Some users were creating the rumors to attract attention, he said. But users from outside China have also been using the sites to fabricate rumors, Liu claimed.

China's microblogging platforms, which have often been used as forums to criticize government officials, are already enacting new measures to control posted content. Late last year, China began demanding that the sites require users to register with their real identities in order to make postings on the sites. The country's two largest microblogging platforms, Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo, however have yet to fully implement the real-name policies across their sites.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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