1,894 online accounts punished for spreading misinformation: Chinese internet regulator

Calling for netizens to improve the ability of distinguishing truth online, the authority also encouraged them to report incidents in order to help purify cyberspace.


February 13, 2023

BEIJING – A total of 1,894 online accounts have been punished as they were found making and spreading false information around the subject of a missing student, China’s top internet regulator said on Sunday.

Since Hu Xinyu, a 15-year-old boy from a residential school in Jiangxi province, was lost in October, information about him and the local police investigation had been hitting media headlines, with huge attention being brought to the case online.

Before Hu’s confirmed suicide on Feb 2, after his body was discovered in the woods near the Zhiyuan Senior High School on Jan 28, rumors about the case were rampant online, “which seriously misled the public and brought a negative effect to society”, the Cyberspace Administration of China said in statement.

The administration quickly urged major internet platforms, including Sina Weibo, Douyin and Kuaishou to have a scrutiny on their accounts and punish people who spread false information, the statement said.

In a release from Sina Weibo, a Chinese Twitter-like platform, more than 3,500 pieces of fake information about the case have been dealt with, with 138 relevant accounts punished, including the shutdown of the account or prohibition of posting for several days.

The administration also summarized and disclosed details of those spreading misinformation in the statement, such as those who fabricated the reason for Hu’s disappearance by saying he was involved in organ trading or sent by the school to be tested due to his rare blood type and those who impersonated Hu’s family members posting videos.

In addition, accounts faking information about the investigation developments and taking advantage of the incident to instigate online chaos were also combated by the internet platforms, according to the statement.

The administration said, “The rumor makers interfering with cyberspace have not only challenged the bottom line of social morality, but also violated laws, so they should be punished without tolerance.”

Calling for netizens to improve the ability of distinguishing truth from misinformation online, it also encouraged them to provide rumor-related clues and report incidents in order to help purify cyberspace.

The administration has stepped up efforts in fighting rumors in recent years, putting it as a priority in its annual work.

In September, for instance, it launched a special campaign against misinformation, requiring local cyberspace departments to pay closer attention to removing fake posts involving heroes, martyrs, disasters and livelihoods.

It also demanded internet platforms track accounts posting or forwarding rumors by optimizing technological measures, requiring websites to mark misinformation in a timely manner after identification.

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