How China’s Internet giants fight fake news

opinion June 12, 2018 01:00

By Tian Zhihui, Huang Lijuan

Fake news is the source of global calamity. Google, Facebook and Twitter are under fire in the United States for spreading fake news and wrong information that began appearing before the 2016 presidential election.

China, too, is suffering the consequences of fake news. Thanks to the huge number of Internet users and the information explosion, fake news is rampant. According to a China Internet Network Information Centre report in January, the number of mobile phone users in China reached 753 million. A QuestMobile report shows an average netizen’s reliance on mobile Internet had dramatically increased to 273.2 minutes a day by March.

Fake news in reference to social aspects of China accounts for more than half of the total (56 per cent) social media reports, according to Data analysis reveal fake news involving personal security, food safety, healthcare, and social ethics account for about 75 per cent of the total fake news in the social field.

Social media is the primary source of fake news. A lot of fake news is published in “self-media” and social media, and by re-reporting it, the traditional media cause a deluge of fake news, which weakens the credibility and influence of the professional media as a whole.

That’s why the Chinese government is sternly cracking down on fake news. Its aim is to build a clean and positive information network ecology.

The Cyberspace Administration of China has been continuously fighting online fake news, as well as unverified publication. It requires every website to ensure their news reports are authentic, comprehensive, objective and fair. The notice also forbids media outlets to blindly quote unconfirmed content posted on social media platforms.

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, passed the Cybersecurity Law in November 2016, which came into effect in June 2017. Its aim is to prevent service providers from illegally obtaining user information or controlling user devices, so as to check “unequal competition and unlawful profits”.

In 2017, China suspended 1,370 websites and permanently blocked a batch of “self-media” accounts with “vulgar content”.

Several Chinese Internet giants are shouldering their responsibilities by using a combination of technology and content authorisation to minimise fake news.

WeChat launched its “Anti-rumour Assistant” in June 2017, which helps users to check whether an article is true. Among the agencies that have joined the anti-rumour centre are mainstream media outlets, national Internet police, and the professional WeChat accounts of users from industries such as healthcare, science and technology, agriculture, food and telecom-munications.

Baidu launched its anti-rumour platform in September 2017, and announced that 372 cyber police accounts from across the country had joined it. Baidu hopes to use innovation and sharing to create China’s largest anti-rumour database through the platform.

Weibo has the ability to tag misinformation, and launched this feature in April 2012 – four years before Facebook. 

President Xi Jinping has called on netizens to grasp the historic opportunity to develop “informationisation” in order to build China’s strength in cyberspace. Its principles are that Internet media should disseminate positive information and guide public opinion and values toward the right direction. They should also make efforts to enhance self-discipline of the online industry and mobilise all sectors to participate in cyberspace governance.