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Fallen celebrity blogger says Net needs cleanup

By Xinhua | China Daily | Updated: 2013-09-16 08:20

Detained celebrity blogger Xue Biqun, known as Xue Manzi on Sina Weibo, boasted that he used to be busier than a minister with endless invitations.

The noted venture capitalist was detained last month for alleged group sex with prostitutes. His detention sent ripples across the Chinese cyberspace as he was a star blogger with 12 million followers on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like blogging service, and was seen as an "online crusader for justice".

On Friday, in a Beijing detention center, the avuncular figure recalled his journey to becoming an influential online voice.

Three years ago, the Chinese-American was a nobody on weibo with only a few thousand followers. At Spring Festival in 2011 he promoted a campaign to help rescue abducted children, after which the number of his followers leapt to several hundreds of thousands.

After May 2011, when he announced he had been diagnosed with cancer, his micro-blog account soon grew to more than 1 million followers.

Later, Sina began to automatically recommend him, along with other celebrities to new bloggers. He also began to frequently appear on magazine covers, television shows and at charity events. The number of his followers then soared to more than 10 million, making Xue one of the first "big Vs with 10 million fans". "V" is a sign put at the end of the names of bloggers whose profiles are verified as genuine.

Xue said he was very careful when reposting in the beginning. "I only wrote or reposted things within my professional field. I would not comment on news about which I did not have a knowledge of, and I would always investigate the sources of news before re-tweeting."

But gradually he became eager to forward and comment on almost anything he saw. "Cause on one side it saved time, and on the other side I thought I would not be held responsible as I am not the original writer."

"Every morning when I logged on to my weibo account, I'd see thousands of messages from followers. Even a minister wouldn't receive so many invitations from 30 provinces and cities every day," he said, adding companies or places benefited from his "recommendations".

Xue said he issued about 85,000 posts via his weibo account, including unverified information later proved to be rumors. He also posted some advertisements to make money.

"My irresponsibility in spreading information online was venting of a negative mood, and neglected the social mainstream," Xue said. Referring to China's latest move to criminalize online rumors spreading, Xue said, "Freedom of speech cannot override the law."

According to a judicial interpretation that took effect last week, people who post online rumors that are viewed by more than 5,000 Internet users or re-tweeted more than 500 times could face defamation charges.

"It is a good beginning," said Xue, adding that after several years of "wild growth", the Internet is filled with lots of things that go beyond legal and moral boundaries and urgently need to be cleaned up.

Police said they are investigating many netizens' reports that Xue's activities on the Internet involved crimes.

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