China says it plans to launch a crackdown on the reporting of “un-factual” news gathered from social media, punishing those online news portals that use such “rumors.”
According to a statement by the Cyberspace Administration of China, online media are required to grant an approval before reporting any piece of news created and spread in the social media.
“It is forbidden to use hearsay to create news or use conjecture and imagination to distort the facts,” it said, listing a number of fake news stories it claimed had recently circulated on the Internet.
“All levels of the cyberspace administration must earnestly fulfill their management responsibility for internet content, strengthen supervision and investigation, severely probe and handle fake and un-factual news,” the statement added.
The Chinese government has already tightened its grip over the Internet. The latest move is an attempt to codify the policy in law.
Authorities have defended restrictions, including blocking Google and Facebook, saying these controls are needed to ensure security in the face of growing terrorist threats and to put an end to the spread of damaging rumors.
The statement came a few days after the government appointed a new chief for its powerful internet regulator.
The 53-year-old Xu Lin had previously vowed to uphold the ruling Communist party’s leadership over the cyberspace and its management of the media and public opinion “without any equivocation.”
“There can be no turning deaf ears to or ignoring wrong points of view on the internet, fantastic stories and theories, distortions of facts to create rumors or malicious attacks,” Xu said in an article in the influential bimonthly party journal Qiushi in October.
Xu was a deputy for former head of the internet regulator, Lu Wei, during the past months.