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Tencent

Fake news proves to be a huge problem for Tencent as it blocks 1,000 articles each minute

The Chinese internet giant works with 1,300 experts and institutions to prevent the spread of fake information on its social media platforms

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 December, 2017, 12:08pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 December, 2017, 11:27pm

Fake news is proving to be a huge headache for Tencent Holdings.

The internet giant, which has about one billion users in China and across the world on its popular WeChat messaging app, said it weeds out 1.4 million untrue stories a day, which works out to 15 per second or 1,000 per minute.

A total of 490 million false stories on WeChat have been blocked by Tencent this year, the Shenzhen-based company announced in its annual report published on Wednesday. Besides, articles published by the company aimed at educating users to differentiate between fake and real news has been read more than 800 million times.

Tencent has been stepping up scrutiny on information circulating on its platforms after China introduced the Cybersecurity Law in June, which is aimed at regulating unwanted internet activities including terrorism, rumours and pornography.

In September, mainland authorities said they had imposed “maximum fines” on Tencent’s WeChat, Baidu’s Tieba and Alibaba Group Holding-backed Sina Weibo for failing to properly manage their social media platforms where their users were spreading misinformation that was jeopardising national security, public safety and social order. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

The authorities did not specify the fines that the three Chinese technology firms were slapped with, but the maximum penalty for violation of the Cybersecurity Law is 500,000 yuan (US$76,100).

Like other popular international social media companies including Facebook and Twitter, Tencent uses help from third-party fact checkers to try and stamp out fake news.

It works with over 1,300 experts and institutions to fend off the spread of fake information across its platforms including WeChat, QQ, Tencent browser, as well as its news website and aggregators.

In January, Facebook launched the “Journalism Project” aimed at curbing misinformation and improving relations with news publishers. The US social network operator also uses third-party fact checkers including news agencies to review news stories that are widely circulated on Facebook.

Unlike Facebook, Beijing-based Jinri Toutiao, the biggest news aggregator in China with 120 million daily active users, utilises artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to detect fake news. The company believes that AI systems that evolve digesting the misinformation will be far superior to humans in filtering out hoaxes.

On WeChat alone, some 800 authorised third-party organisations have helped Tencent to shut down 180,000 accounts that published fake news, and has published 40 such lists pertaining to rumours circulating on the social media platform.

It has also launched a mini-app in WeChat to help users identify the authenticity of information circulating on the platform. Total users of the mini-app has almost reached 20 million as of December, Tencent said.

Tencent claims that it will adopt even smarter, and more intelligent and efficient mechanisms to spot and block fake information in the future, but it did not disclose how much it spends a year on curbing the menace.

The company did not immediately reply to an email media query.

Misinformation was mostly seen in topics such as health care, food safety, and odds and ends pieces, the company said.

Among the blocked fake information on WeChat, 39 per cent were tips to maintain a healthier body and lifestyle and nearly a third had the word “cancer”.