False advertising a ‘malignant tumour’, warns People’s Daily amid China’s crackdown on online content

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 August, 2018, 11:35am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2018, 3:58pm

People’s Daily, a mouthpiece for China’s ruling Communist Party, has called false advertising a “malignant tumour” and called on internet giants to actively shoulder social responsibility in cleaning it up.

The authorities will use “heavy fists” towards such activities that cause public harm, the newspaper said in a commentary published on Tuesday. In the first half of the year, market watchdogs had investigated over 8,100 cases of illegal and deceptive advertising, up 64.2 per cent year-on-year, with 117 million yuan (US$17 million) in fines imposed.

The comments come amid intensified efforts by Chinese authorities to “clean up” online content. On Monday, Apple said it had removed thousands of gambling apps from its App Store in China in compliance with regulations, after state media denounced the US technology giant for failing to protect consumers against banned content.

While the regulation of harmful online content is an increasing challenge around the world, the Chinese government has been particularly active since the start of this year, launching several crackdowns on “inappropriate” online content.

China’s internet watchdog clamps down on ‘disrespectful’ advertising

The clean up has been targeted at sensitive political news, lowbrow content, celebrity gossip, and off-colour jokes deemed to be against the country’s socialist values.

China is home to 802 million internet users, the biggest online community in the world, according to a report issued by the China internet Network Information Centre on Monday. The country’s online penetration rate had reached 57.7 per cent as of June.

The key to a successful crackdown on false advertising lies in internet platforms shouldering social responsibility and supervising content on influential online portals, search engines, Weibo and WeChat public accounts and apps, the newspaper said.

“There should be a thorough combination of manual vetting and technology approach to clean up misleading advertisements in a timely manner,” it said. “Internet platforms should also be encouraged to develop artificial intelligence systems that can identify illegal ads, fight against fake product reviews or ratings, and crack down on paid posts and click farming.”