China / Society

China waging war on online porn, rumors

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-04-18 14:51

BEIJING -- China's war against online crimes including disseminating rumors and pornography has stepped up recently.

A Beijing court on Thursday gave Internet rumormonger Qin Zhihui, known online as "Qinhuohuo," a three-year jail term for defaming celebrities and the government.

Earlier in the week, Charles Xue, also known as Xue Manzi to his 12 million followers on Sina Weibo, the Chinese Twitter clone, apologized to the public for spreading online rumors.

Xue was arrested in October on charges of having had group sex with prostitutes and "instigating disturbances," a term used to refer to online rumormongering. But he was released on bail after suffering a "serious illness," Beijing police said on Wednesday.

The repentance of both Qin and Xue holds great significance in the context of booming Chinese cyberspace. The number of Chinese netizens has exceeded 610 million. There are 143.9 million active users of microblogging platform Sina Weibo, and more than 300 million users of Weixin, or WeChat, which allows people to send text, photos, videos and voice messages over mobile phones.

While the public enjoys faster communication and more platforms to voice opinions on issues ranging from pollution to official corruption, the government is working to curb the pervasiveness of online rumors, as some star bloggers, or "big Vs," are using their influence for personal gain, impacting society and harming social order.

This is a war China cannot afford to lose.


Experts have said China's crackdown on rumors is necessary to preserve social stability and poured scorn on Western media claims that the government is using the campaign as a pretext to limit freedom of speech.

Launching a website or opening a Weibo account is like running a restaurant; if you provide poisonous food to the public, your restaurant must be shut down, said Wang Zhongwu, a professor with Shandong University.

He described the online environment as good mingling with bad and said the trend of negativity was "worrisome and hateful."

In his apology, Xue said he used to issue 80 posts via Weibo every day and received more than 100,000 comments on a daily basis. "With so many followers, I felt like a king looking after state affairs," he explained.

Xue said companies or places would soon benefit after his "recommendations." He also posted advertisements to make money and retweeted unverified information later proven to be rumors.

One particular pernicious claim by Xue that tuna and hairtail were causing high mercury levels in the water of east China's Zhoushan City caused dire consequences for the fishery industry in Zhoushan.

Meanwhile, Qin Zhihui was described by netizens as "using rumors to overturn China."

He invented a story that the Chinese government gave 200 million yuan ($ 32.5 million) in compensation to the family of a foreign passenger killed in a high-speed train crash in 2011.

The post was retweeted 11,000 times and got 3,300 comments, sparking erroneous fury about the government treating foreigners and Chinese unequally in the aftermath of the crash.

Qin also ran a "black PR" firm, taking money from companies to post online comments discrediting rivals.

Besides rumors, the spread of pornography online has also worried parents and educators as youths comprise the bulk of netizens.

Lyu Yang, who works in a media organization in Northwest China's Shaanxi province, was shocked to see pornography in a search engine on her son's mobile phone.

"My son said his classmates visited these websites at evening classes," Lyu said. "It is essential for the government to shut down these web portals."

Web porn has disrupted social order and tainted the image of China as a whole, casting a bad influence on minors and even threatening their personal security, said Li Weihong, vice minister of education. "Some teenagers have committed crimes due to the influence of porn. It is a severe lesson we must learn."

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