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Celebrity netizen jailed for online rumors

By Xinhua | China Daily | Updated: 2013-10-18 08:10

A celebrity netizen who allegedly made money from generating and spreading rumors online has been arrested in Yunnan province and has confessed to charges against him.

Dong Rubin, 51, who uses the online name "Bianmin," meaning "man living on the border," confessed to the charges brought against him of illegal business operations and "creating disturbances", according to police.

He did these to gain a profit, police said.

After gaining the trust of "clients", Dong hired or arranged for others to write false rumors and post them on online forums. He then organized a team to write comments on the fabricated posts.

Then Dong himself, who has a significant online fanbase, commented and invited other well-known bloggers to participate in the discussion to attract media attention until the clients' demands were met.

He is accused of starting rumors about four brothers of the Huang family in March 2011 and defaming them as gang members after he received 90,000 yuan ($14,770) from a businessman who was in conflict with the brothers in 2011.

To make the post eye-catching, the four brothers were called "Huang Silang," the name of the villain in a Chinese, mobster blockbuster called Let the Bullets Fly.

In January this year, Dong learned that a property company attributed poor sales of a real estate project in Xuanwei, Yunnan province, to a thermal power plant nearby, and he told the company's owner that he could use rumors to force the power plant to shut down or relocate.

Dong and his team fabricated information that the plant had led to a large number of cancer cases in a village. They posted 39 such articles online and succeeded in stirring public debate.

Dong's team got 100,000 yuan from the "cancer village" rumors, police said.

Dong also fabricated and spread rumors on the death of an airport official in Yunnan in May, after being paid 80,000 yuan, police said.

In order to gain more popularity online, he allegedly posted fake information and comments that distorted facts during the investigation, prosecution and trial of the Mekong River attack, in which 13 sailors were murdered on Oct 5, 2011, by a Myanmar druglord and his gang members.

Dong said there were no direct economic gains from the Mekong rumors but he did gain more attention from the public.

"I did not think much about the consequences of the untrue and wrong remarks," Dong told police at a detention center in Kunming. "I sincerely apologize to the police officers whose reputations were damaged during the investigation of the (Mekong River) incident.

"I also want to say sorry to my fans and readers. I am ready to bear the legal responsibilities."

Dong used to be a middle school teacher, but he left the school after he was punished by the police for smuggling and gambling. He also had a job at a newspaper and later a website.

He came to fame in 2007 by posting sensational articles on popular websites and was listed by a newspaper as one of the 10 most famous netizens in Yunnan province in 2008.

His arrest followed the punishment of several online rumor mongers including Qin Zhihui, who was found to have created and spread false information about a 2011 bullet train accident and China's most famous good Samaritan, Lei Feng.

According to a judicial interpretation issued last month, people who post defamatory comments online in China face up to three years in prison if their statements are widely reposted.

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