The front page of today’s People’s Daily features the article, “Internet rumors harm people and harm our society. The public must not believe or transmit rumors.” Unlike most of the state media reports on Internet rumors, this one actually lists ten cases of Internet rumors that have harmed society in recent years:
- A text message that read: “Family, classmates, friends, don’t eat tangerine oranges! This year the tangerines from Guangyuan (Sichuan Province), have maggots under their peal. Sichuan buried a large batch and sprinkled them with lime.” This SMS was forwarded from phone to phone, and reported by news sources. It led to a massive drop in the price of tangerines across the country, and a loss of RMB 1.5 billion for the agriculture industry.
- Rumors that an earthquake was going to happen in Shanxi, also started by an SMS message. The article lists a number of people involved in spreading the message, many of whom were detained for 10 days and fined 500 yuan.
- Rumors about an explosion at a chemical plant in Xiangshui (Jiangsu province). This caused panic and 4 people were killed in a car accident trying to escape.
- A website posted that some unscrupulous businessmen were mixing leather waste, animal hair and other substances with their milk powder in order to raise the protein level.
- On March 11, 2011, an earthquake on the east coast of Japan, near the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, spurred a rumor on QQ that Chinese people would be exposed to radiation. This caused a run on the salt market as people believed iodized salt could prevent or treat health problems caused by exposure to radioactive materials. The price of salt shot up. The person charged with starting the rumor was detained for 10 days and fined 500 yuan.
- Someone impersonated the State Administration of Taxation to announce a revision of several provisions related to personal income-tax.
- Students at Chongqing Jiaotong University College of Civil Engineering and Architecture spread a rumor about acupuncture needles being too hot.
- Rumors that the HIV virus could be transmitted through food. The rumor spread via SMS and QQ. People who played critical roles in disseminating the message have been identified.
- On February 21, 2012, microblog user “Mirador Ma Ma” wrote that a new mutated version of the SARS virus has emerged. The blog spread quickly, and caused mass panic. According to the law, the people responsible for disseminating this rumor were sentenced to two years of education through labor.
- The ‘military vehicles arrived in Beijing’ rumor that spread in March 2012: According to the law, 6 people have been detained for fabricating and maliciously spreading these rumors.
The article warns people to resist the spread of rumors. According to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s decision on safeguarding internet security and internet information, the spread of rumors online will be closely monitored. Beijing and Guangdong Province information management departments have been severely criticized. Sina and Tencent microblog sites have had 3 suspensions from March 31 to April 3 to clean up problematic posts.
The first paragraph of Article 25 of the People’s Republic of China on public security and administration punishment says that spreading rumors, false danger, or other information to intentionally disrupt public disorder merits a detention for 10 days and a fine of 500 yuan.
Links and sources
People’s Daily: 网络谣言害人害己 社会公众勿信勿传 —— 近年来在社会上产生严重后果的十起网络谣言案例