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China Daily Website

Fight against online rumors

Updated: 2013-06-20 21:45

Continuous rumors on the Internet are raising heated debate nowadays. Experts say that in the short term, refuting rumors in detail is preferred; but setting up an effective official mechanism in the long run is much more important, Beijing Evening News reported.

Staff members from Beijing's public security bureau's micro blog department - “Safe Beijing”, said that online rumors have more details in them and appear more like the truth these days.

The time and place in rumors are more specific, such as “5 pm yesterday” and “Pingleyuan community in Pinggu district” which are used instead of “nowadays” and “Guangdong province”.

There were two photos on weibo on Dec 30, showing a girl with her hands tied together crawling out of a paper box, covered in blood, in Beijing's Sanlitun. A staff member of “Safe Beijing” felt it was fake news and called the police station. When the police arrived at the spot, they found out it was a movie being made. Then, “Safe Beijing” unveiled the actual situation, and netizens followed on to say it was incredible that someone tried to be popular without worrying about the ramifications..

When talking about reasons why there are so many rumors, Hu Haibo, a counselor, said there was a common feeling that they are openly playing with weibo to raise the amount of fun or to play tricks. 

“Rumors related to public security and traffic law enforcement are probably related to the rumor monger's life and job,” Hu said.

“Most widespreading rumors are made without such an intention, and it has little effect on restoring social trust when tracing back to the source of rumors,” said Wang Erping, a researcher from the Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“Attention should be paid to rumors, because it has a catalytic effect on social group behavior,” Wang said. “It's vital to fight against rumors with the public and the release of comprehensive information in the early stages instead of concentrating on tracing the source.”

“The authorities are likely to cover the core facts when refuting rumors that have aroused enormous impact, but the public doesn't believe these explanations. A gradual release of the proceeding information is suggested and let the public acquire the information from authoritative channels,” Wang said.

According to the data collected by the reporter more than two years, there are three types of rumors which appear repeatedly:

The first type is related to public security, such as the case that someone sold soap to costumers, but the customer became unconscious and was robbed after he or she smelled the soap.

This type of rumor easily creates social panic. However, some citizens will increase their sense of self-protection.

The second type is related to traffic enforcement, such as high definition cameras being used to shoot pictures of illegal driving at 6 pm and drunk drivers being detained.

This type of rumor does little harm and is likely to lead to some citizens better focusing on traffic law. However, it may raise questions about the way traffic laws are enforced.

The third type is related to trouble makers, such as an exam admission card for gaokao which has been picked up with detail information, including the names, and the exam registration numbers.

This type of rumor makes people cautious when their generosity has been tricked and they will be reluctant to help people in need in the future.