Web giants join up to battle rumors

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, August 2, 2013
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Six Chinese websites jointly launched a platform yesterday in a bid to quash false rumors that circulate online.

Beijing launches platform to debunk online rumors.[File photo]

Beijing launches platform to debunk online rumors.[File photo]

It was jointly launched by Qianlong, Sogou, Sohu, Netease, Baidu and Sina Weibo microblogging service.

The initiative operates under the instruction of the Beijing Internet Information Office and the Beijing Internet Association, a non-profit social organization.

The Internet has expanded Chinese people’s channels of expression, but also facilitated the circulation of rumors and false information, said Chen Hua, director of the Internet information service and management department under the BIIO.

“This is an attempt by Beijing’s websites to eradicate online rumors and raise awareness in distinguishing rumors from the truth,” he added.

The first phase of the platform has already been completed, said Chen.

It has collected 100,000 statements on online rumors and phishing websites and offers some 30 websites where these can be reported.

The second phase should be ready in a year and offer more entertaining and interactive programs to encourage the public to report online rumors.

Some Internet users create rumors to attract attention, while others do it to let off steam, said Min Dahong, a researcher on Internet usage.

But rumors fabricated on purpose can be dangerous and incite panic, added Min.

Research has shown that rumors travel especially fast in times of emergency — such as natural disasters.

Last June, Sohu’s news center launched its “Rumor Terminator” program, which has handled 300 examples of false information.

It uncovered how soon after downpours hit Beijing on July 21, 2012, Internet users posted photographs of severe flooding from years earlier.

In another example, Internet users claimed that it had been correctly predicted five years ago that an earthquake would hit Lushan County in Sichuan Province.

But it later emerged that these claims weren’t made until after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck on April 20, killing at least 196 people.

Such rumors had an extremely harmful influence, Wu Chenguang, news center director of Sohu, said.

Wu added that the government’s slow pace in releasing information has made it easier for rumors to spread.

Min said rumors travel fast in China, because they touch on issues of common concern. Chinese people care more about their surroundings these days, he said.

Rumors travel fast because they cater to public curiosity and concern about environmental protection, food safety and corruption, he added.


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