6 detained, 16 websites closed for spreading rumors

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Chinese authorities detained six people and closed 16 websites responsible for "fabricating or disseminating online rumors," the State Internet Information Office (SIIO) and Beijing police said Friday.

Six people were detained for allegedly fabricating and spreading rumors of "military vehicles entering Beijing and something wrong going on in Beijing," particularly through microblogging posts, according to the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Public Security.

An undisclosed number of people who had disseminated similar rumors on the Internet were also "admonished and educated," who have shown intention to repent, the police said.

The SIIO spokesman said with regard to a number of rumors having appeared on weibo.com and t.qq.com, the China's two most popular microblogging sites have been "criticized and punished accordingly" by Internet information administration authorities in Beijing and Guangdong respectively.

The spokesman did not elaborate what the punishment was, but said the two websites had pledged to "strengthen the management."

The two sites subsequently announced they would shut down the comment section until the morning of April 4 as to delete "harmful information."

In a statement on Friday, Beijing police urged Internet users to abide by laws and be vigilant against online rumors, which severely disturb the public order, undermine social stability and deserve punishment.

The websites, including meizhou.net, xn528.com and cndy.com.cn, were closed for spreading these rumors, which have caused "a very bad influence on the public", said a spokesman with SIIO. The closure is in accordance with laws for failing to stop the spread of rumors.

An editorial to be carried in the Saturday edition of People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China, said anyone involved in creating and spreading rumors will surely be punished according to laws.

"By falsely packaging lies and speculation as 'truth' and 'existence,' online rumors undermine the morale of the public, and if out of control, they will seriously disturb the public order and affect social stability," reads the article.

All Internet operators and users in China should abide by relevant laws and regulations as fundamental rules for ensuring the healthy development of Internet, according to the commentary.

China has seen its Internet population continue to grow as rapid urbanization has allowed more and more people to access the web, and concerns over cyber safety have increased alongside the industry's boom.

The number of Internet users in China is estimated to have reached 513 million as of the end of 2011, up 55.8 million year-on-year, according to latest figures from the China Internet Network Information Center.

Current laws and regulations governing the Internet management include a decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on safeguarding Internet safety, Rules on the Management of Internet Information Service, and Regulations on Internet News and Information Service.

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