Chinese Government: “Internet Rumors Are Like Drugs..Attack Creators And Spreaders…Head-On”

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  • on December 4th, 2011

It looks like the campaign to squash Internet rumors, especially on microblogs (aka weibo), has kicked into high gear.

In the last week there have been multiple articles in official Chinese media about the importance of the proper handling of microblogs and the dangers of Internet rumors. The coordinated propaganda effort appears to have started with a signed article in the November 28 issue of People’s Daily by Wang Chen, head of the State Internet Information Office and a deputy minister of the Central Propaganda Department–积极开展微博客舆论引导工作 Actively Carry Out Microblog Public Opinion Guidance Work.

Wang Chen references the “Decision” of October’s 6th Plenum of the 17th Communist Party Congress in his opening paragraph. Party members at all levels will likely be studying this article and implementing, or at least making a show of implementing, his suggestions.

Also on November 28 People’s Daily Online published 网络谣言是毒品 请自觉抵制和远离 Internet Rumors Are Drugs, Please Resist And Stay Far Away From Them and Xinhua Online ran the first of a series of commentaries on the subject with 新华网评:网络谣言如“毒品” – 新华评论 – 新华网 Internet Rumors Are Like Drugs.

On November 29th Xinhua Online published the second in the series–新华网评:切莫让网络谣言毒害我们善良的心 Please Do Not Let Internet Rumors Poison Our Kind Hearts and on the 30th carried the third–新华网评:让“组合拳”斩断网络谣言的“传播链” Use A “Combination Punch” To Cut The Internet Rumor “Propagation Chain”.

On December 1 People’s Daily Online ran 对网络造谣传谣者就应当“迎头痛击” Attack Creators And Spreaders Of Internet Rumors Head-On. The article states that “Internet rumors are “societal drugs”…which are no less harmful to society than Internet pornography, gambling or drugs.   (“网络谣言是“社会毒品”…其社会危害不亚于“网上黄赌毒”).

That December 1 article admits that the rapid spread of Internet rumors is partly due to a credibility deficit of the government and its officials. It also states that “some foreign forces, who always want to play the role of “savior”…are using the Internet to disseminate rumors to smear the image of officials, to attack leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, use distortions to illustrate that China’s current political regime is lacking in legitimacy and stability”. (某些国外势力,总想扮演“救世主”的角色,总想解救中国人民生活于“水深火热”之中。他们借助网络散播谣言藉以丑化官员的形象,来攻击中国共产党的领导,歪曲说明中国现行的政治制度是多么的缺少合法性和稳固性. See Jon Huntsman Confirms Beijing’s Belief Of A US Internet Plot Against China | Sinocism for more on Beijing’s belief in foreign plots.)

The language in these articles has echoes of campaigns and crackdowns from an earlier era. The comparisons to drugs and drug dealing, sometimes a capital offense in China, may be a sign of an impending harsh crackdown on those who spread Internet rumors. The backdrop is concern about social stability, especially in the worsening economic environment, and increasing conservatism in the run-up to the leadership change at the 2012 18th Party Congress. This week also saw a much publicized talk by top security official Zhou Yongkang calling for “improved social management”.

Government pressure is increasing on the leading Chinese Internet companies, especially Sina ($SINA) for its weibo, and Tencent, both for its weibo and for QQ, the leading real-time messaging platform in China. Investors should be wary.

You can follow me @Niubi on Twitter@Bill on Stocktwits and @Billbishop on Sina Weibo.

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