China has launched a platform, which includes a mobile app, that lets the public report “online rumors” and even uses artificial intelligence to identify reports that are false, as Beijing cracks down on what it views as socially destabilizing content.
The platform, launched on Wednesday, comes as Beijing steps up efforts to police the Internet, especially social media used by people to discuss politics and other sensitive subjects, despite stringent censorship.
Besides a Web site, the platform Piyao — which means “refuting rumours” — also has a mobile app and social media accounts.
Via those channels, Piyao broadcasts “real” news, sourcing reports from state-owned media, party-controlled local newspapers and various government agencies.
“Rumors violate individual rights; rumors create social panic; rumors cause fluctuations in the stock markets; rumors impact normal business operations; rumors blatantly attack revolutionary martyrs,” Piyao said in a promotional video of the launch on its Web site.
Official data show that Internet regulators received 6.7 million reports of illegal and false information last month.
Chinese laws dictate that rumor-mongers could be charged with defamation and face up to seven years in prison.
Online posts that contain rumors visited by more than 5,000 Internet users or are reposted more than 500 times could also incur jail sentences.
Hosted by the Chinese Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, in affiliation with Xinhua news agency, Piyao has integrated more than 40 local rumor-refuting platforms and uses artificial intelligence to identify rumors.
The platform operates under the guidance of 27 government departments, including the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Party School, which trains rising officials, and powerful planning body the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission.
Chinese media regularly report on — and refute — rumors that circulate online, although generally only mention topics on issues such as corrupt local officials or health scares, rather than anything more salacious about senior leaders.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) last year said that China would build a “clean and clear” Internet space.
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