May 02, 2013 06:45 PM

Regulator Clamps Down on Internet Rumors

China's Internet czar has started a campaign to clean up online rumor mills, weeks after false information was spread through the Internet on the latest strain of avian flu. Individuals identified by authorities as creators of rumors can be detained, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

Two individuals in Guizhou Province were detained for five to ten days by local police for writing that H7N9 bird flu cases had been confirmed in the province. The National Internet Information Office shut down more than 20 microblogging accounts used by the two individuals.

Officials from the National Internet Information Office told Xinhua that several types of social networking activities will be targeted in the latest campaign – the spread of false information, the production of false images such as doctored photos, and users with a large number of followers that post information on the Internet to ask for verification. Authorities say users which post rumors seeking verification increase the risk of the rumor being spread as factual information.

Web users that are "unaware of the truth" will spread the information, which will then damage the credibility of Internet media, said the official.

According to Xinhua, the official said that China's Criminal Law stipulates several kinds of rumors which are punishable by jail term: Rumors intended to incite subversion against state power, false information that aims to affect the securities market, false information about terrorist activities or unfounded allegations directed at smearing business reputations or products.

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