Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
China’s largest social network is encouraging content creators to self-censor after the country’s internet watchdog announced a new campaign targeting citizen journalists. Photo: Reuters

China targets fake news and citizen journalists with new campaign from internet watchdog

  • The Cyberspace Administration of China published guidelines for a new campaign targeting ‘misinterpretations’ of financial and economic policies
  • Citizen journalists and the platforms that host them are being singled out after other recent campaigns against fake news and recommendation algorithms

The Chinese government launched a campaign on Friday to crack down on citizen journalists that “misinterpret economic policies and forecast doom and gloom in financial markets”, another move in Beijing’s regulatory tightening on internet content.

The move is the latest to target certain websites and so-called self-media accounts – independently operated public social media accounts, typically on WeChat and Weibo – that have been accused of spreading rumours and using fake news to blackmail companies.
“[This has] seriously disrupted the order of information dissemination on the internet,” reads the guideline published by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), which helps censor the country‘s internet behind the Great Firewall.

China declares war on ‘fake news’ in blow to social media

Similar to another campaign targeting fake news announced earlier this month by the Propaganda Department, which the CAC is also involved in, the new campaign helmed by the cyberspace authority affects the country’s citizen journalists and the major online platforms that host them. It also targets financial and economic information platforms, including the business sections of news websites, the CAC said.

With these targets, the campaign will tackle problems that include misinterpreting national financial policies and macroeconomic data; republishing overseas articles that misinterpret China’s financial policies “without judgment”; writing fake news and spreading rumours; and publishing negative information to threaten, intimidate or blackmail relevant stakeholders, according to the guidelines.

The first phase of the campaign will last for two months, during which the CAC will work with other authorities that include the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Finance, the People’s Bank of China, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, and the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission.

On Saturday morning, social media giant Tencent Holdings published a statement in support of the CAC’s new campaign. Its ubiquitous super app WeChat also encouraged content creators to self-censor and asked users to report inappropriate content.

The campaign adds to a drive from Beijing to create a “positive” internet environment that redirects people’s attention to content the state deems fit for broad public consumption.


Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan sentenced to four years in jail for Wuhan coronavirus reports

Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan sentenced to four years in jail for Wuhan coronavirus reports
The country’s internet watchdog has also drafted new rules that seek to “ regulate algorithm-empowered recommendation activities” – an important component of how Big Tech companies like ByteDance and Tencent keep users glued to their apps. The rules, released on Friday, target the use of algorithms for content aggregation, personalised recommendations and search rankings.

Another effort from the CAC to clean up internet content, which kicked off in June, is an ongoing crackdown on informal online communities that centre around a specific idol or celebrity, known as fan circles, or fan quan in Chinese. The agency said it intends to weed out activities that manipulate user opinion online.

As part of that campaign, the CAC had removed 150,000 pieces of “harmful” content and punished more than 4,000 accounts related to fan circles as of early August, according to state-owned Xinhua News Agency.