Ending the Internet rumour mill

Beijing (The Star/ANN) - Authorities have begun a crackdown on rumour-mongers who use the Net to cause confusion. The most recent rumour was about Chinese troops taking over Beijing following the removal of a top municipal Communist Party official.

Over dinner with a few fellow journalists on March 19, rumours that the Chinese military troops had taken over Beijing spread around the table and alarm bells rang.

Our immediate feeling was that it was impossible that the Chinese capital would be turned into chaos.

We concluded that there was only a small possibility that the supporters of ousted Chongqing municipal Communist Party secretary Bo Xilai could cause problems for the Chinese leadership.

The rumours came days after the party¿s announcement of the removal of the influential politician from the top Chongqing post and his position in the city¿s party standing committee.

Alhough there had not been any official explanation for Bo¿s sacking, it is believed that it was linked to the incident where Bo¿s former second man and the city¿s police chief and vice-mayor Wang Lijun had allegedly visited the US consulate office in Chengdu to seek asylum and expose the purported corruption of Bo.

On March 30, the Beijing police finally confirmed that the so-called security tension was merely a rumour and six people were held for spreading false news on the Internet.

The cops said the suspects had admitted their wrongdoing and apologised.

Meanwhile, the telecom administration department said they closed 16 websites and gave a warning to the Sina and QQ weibo (Chinese version of Twitter) platforms for not preventing the spread of the rumours.

The authorities said making use of the Internet to create and spread rumours would confuse the public and cause social disorder.

Internet users had been urged to abide by the laws and help maintain the healthy development of the cyberspace.

In recent months, the authorities have cracked down on rumour mills. In one case, a man from Henan pro­vince started a rumour that a HIV/AIDS patient from Xinjiang had used his blood to contaminate food to spread the disease to others and sent it to a woman in Zhengzhou city via SMS.

Other ¿news¿ included stories such as ¿Wuhan university student had her kidney cut off and was eventually killed¿, ¿Yuxi will be hit by 8.6- magnitude earthquake¿, ¿village children in Qianxi robbed for their kidneys¿ and ¿Hainan student was inebriated and gang-raped¿. All proved to be false.

Following the arrest of the rumour-mongers who created the news that the military troops had taken over Beijing, many Netizens lauded the move.

¿Qingcheng¿ from Hohhot in Inner Mongolia autonomous region said: ¿Nowadays the world is filled with rumour-mongers. It will become more harmful if we do not strictly punish the perpetrators."

Another Netizen ¿gchgyz¿ from Hebei province said many quarters in China and abroad would want to cause problems in the country and the authorities should be resolute in stopping them.

¿It was no wonder the Sina weibo closed its comments forum," said another Internet user.

In its editorial published last Sunday, the state newspaper Peo­­-ple¿s Daily said some quarters had become more audacious in creating news out of thin air and spreading them like wildfire.

¿We should not be lenient when it comes to punishing those who create and spread false news on the Internet. Sometimes a serious incident breaks out because of widespread rumours that fan public emotions that can further aggravate the situation," it said.

Global Times said rumours of such nature should not be overlooked as China was going through an important year when the Chinese Com­munist Party¿s 18th congress would be held around September and the nation was facing the challenges of an economic transformation.

China Youth Daily said it was time for parents and teachers to educate the younger generation to be responsible people.

  • Look, don't touch: Flickr photo of the day 1 hour 57 minutes ago
    Look, don't touch: Flickr photo of the day

    If there's one car that's particularly sought-after among today's well-heeled car collectors, a Ferrari 250 would be it. Usually it's the GTO variant, like the 1963 that sold for a record $52 million last year. A 250 of any sorts demands unfathomable cash, however, which is why we can but gawk at this 250 Testa Rossa. It's as close as any mere mortal will ever come to owning one.

  • Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners 2 hours 53 minutes ago
    Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners

    Buyers of Ferraris or Jaguars are used to perks from manufacturers – including racetrack lessons to help master their exotic machines. But for enthusiasts on a tighter budget, the Ford ST Octane Academy might be the sweetest deal in motoring: Buy a Ford Fiesta ST or Focus ST hatchback, and the reward is a free day of training at one of America’s longest, most-lavish road courses.

  • Why you can't buy America's greenest car 6 hours ago
    Why you can't buy America's greenest car

    Ask me or any auto expert what's the fastest car you can buy for any given amount, and we could easily cough up several options. Same for most luxurious, or off-roadable, or any other measurement. Yet there's one type of question that's far harder to answer: What's the greenest, most environmentally friendly car you can buy today?

  • Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia
    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Armed pirates boarded a Singapore-managed oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. The attack occurred early Tuesday off Malaysia's west coast, said Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. The diesel oil tanker was believed to be en route to Myanmar. "IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca Straits.

  • McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania
    McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania

    It may not be safe to enter a McDonald’s restaurant in Singapore on Mondays starting 28 April. To celebrate the iconic Japanese character Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary, the fast food chain announced last Friday that it would be releasing a new collection of Hello Kitty toys in McDonald’s restaurants island wide next Monday.

  • First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy
    First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy

    He called the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn forwarded him to the coastguard two minutes later. That was followed by about 20 other calls from children on board the ship to the emergency number, a fire service officer told Reuters.