Chinese web powers vow to clamp down on rumours

Three of China’s biggest online players are vowing to clamp down even further on false rumours being spread online.

Search giant Baidu, along with social titans Sina and Tencent promised to guard their platforms more carefully after people started speculating about a potential coup led by security chief Zhou Yongkang.

The coup rumours themselves were fuelled by a rare public scandal in which rising political star Bo Xilai was dismissed as a Communist Party chief.

Authorities responded by shutting down a number of sites, making a string of arrests and punishing Sina and Tencent’s microblogs (or weibos).

In comments that were aired on Chinese national TV, the three web giants promised to “firmly support and cooperate with relevant government departments in cracking down and probing web rumours.”

Tencent chief administration officer Chen Yidan said that the companies would have to “shoulder social responsibility, strengthen supervision of harmful information and adopt effective measures.”

Bo’s sacking is believed to have exposed major rifts in China’s ruling party. According to AFP, he was sacked as party chief of the south-western metropolis of Chongqing last month after his former police chief fled to a US consulate and reportedly demanded political asylum.

His dismissal received minimal coverage among China’s official state news agencies, which only served to fuel the online rumours.

As the rumours reached their peak, both Tencent and Sina stopped their weibo users from commenting on other users’ posts as the government blamed them carrying for online chatter speculating about the coup.

China already operates strict web censorship through a series of filter colloquially referred as “The Great Firewall of China”. These filters also block access to a number of Western social networks including Facebook and Twitter.



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