Asia's fight against fake news -China

Regulating chat groups, news reporting


BEIJING • China's Cyberspace Administration recently came out with new rules to regulate Internet chat groups and information released from online public accounts.

The rules, which became effective this month, make it important for service providers of online group chats to clarify the responsibility of users, identify them and ensure that users' personal information is not leaked. They must also find safety flaws and loopholes that create risks and remedy them in time.

The administration also suggests that service providers build a credit rating and blacklist system to strengthen management and supervision of group chats. Groups releasing illegal content, including false information, could see their chats closed, and the founder punished by the service provider.

From building stronger journalist professionalism to strengthening the management and social responsibility of news providers, China has been striving for more accurate news reports by adopting a series of measures to fight fake news.

There is a realisation that dramatic social reform and development since the 1990s have led to rapid growth in the media industry and, with that, the problems of paid-for news and fake news.

"With more commercial media available to the public, more attention should be paid to the news providers' social responsibility and occupational morality to avoid fake news, spreading of rumours and exaggeration", said Ms Wang Dongmei, executive secretary of the All-China Journalists Association (ACJA). A few years ago, four provinces and one municipality established a News Morality Association initiated by ACJA, as a surveillance mechanism. As of today, 14 provinces and municipalities have their own News Morality Association.

A mechanism of regulating news reporting through releasing media social responsibility reports was also launched as a pilot project in 11 media outlets in 2014. As of last year, 38 media outlets have adopted the mechanism - six state-owned media, and 32 regional media from 28 provinces, cities and municipalities.

"The prevalence of online news and new media such as WeChat and microblogs has posed a great challenge to the accuracy of news," said Professor Liu Xiaoying, director of the International News Research Centre at Communication University of China in Beijing.

"News providers should respect the truth of news and strengthening the self-discipline."

Statistics from the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Centre show that 3.67 million complaints about possible problematic information were received in June, up 42.2 per cent year-on-year.

Baidu, one of China's biggest search engines, was fined last month for failing to remove fake news, including content deemed offensive to the Communist Party, together with Tencent Holdings and Weibo, Bloomberg reported.

Baidu chief executive Robin Li has said that the company is creating China's "largest database to combat fake news", cooperating with 600 organisations to identify problem content, Reuters said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 29, 2017, with the headline 'Regulating chat groups, news reporting'. Print Edition | Subscribe