Shanghai cyber watchdog warns against internet rumours as extended lockdown frays nerves
- The Shanghai office of the Cyberspace Administration of China asks WeChat group members to obey the law
- Rumours spread on Thursday that armed police would take over the city, while group buying would be suspended
Shanghai’s internet watchdog said it would crack down on rumours on social media, as speculation and anger mount among residents living in the locked-down city of 25 million, ravaged by an Omicron outbreak.
“Some people are making up, publishing and spreading rumours related to our measures to contain the outbreak … especially through WeChat group chats,” the Shanghai office of the Cyberspace Administration of China said in an announcement on Friday.
“We would like to remind every group chat organiser and member to obey the law and regulations online.”
Misinformation related to Shanghai’s latest wave of Covid-19 infections first surfaced last month, when rumours swirled online that the city would enter a lockdown in early March. The city’s government quickly refuted the claim at the time.
As cases soared, however, Shanghai went on to impose a two-phase lockdown on March 28, which was originally scheduled to end on April 5, but has since been extended indefinitely.
Residents of Shanghai, which reported a daily record of more than 21,000 new Covid-19 infections on Friday, have remained confined to their homes for more than a week now. Grocery supplies in many households have begun to run out, leaving citizens on edge.
On Thursday, rumours spread on messaging groups on WeChat, Tencent Holdings’ ubiquitous super app, alleging that armed police would take over the city, while group buying – which many people currently rely on to purchase daily essentials – would be suspended. Shanghai police denied the claims on Friday morning, saying it was investigating a 35-year-old man surnamed Zhou, accused of fabricating fake information.
Still, some residents have been subsisting on instant noodles and porridge, according to a Pudong-based blogger who goes by the handle “stormzhang”. “When disaster strikes, please stop promoting your positive energy and make way for distress signals,” the author wrote in a WeChat article on Friday.
A growing number of Chinese internet users, who usually refrain from discussing government policies in public, have taken to social media to push back against Shanghai’s blanket lockdown.