China is set to launch a crackdown on the reporting of news gathered from social media as part of the government’s campaign against fake news and the spreading of rumors, the country’s internet regulator said Sunday.
The Cyberspace Administration of China said, in a statement, that online media cannot report any news taken from social media sites without approval from the authorities. “It is forbidden to use hearsay to create news or use conjecture and imagination to distort the facts,” it said, as reported by Reuters.
“All levels of the cyberspace administration must earnestly fulfill their management responsibility for internet content, strengthen supervision and investigation, severely probe and handle fake and unfactual news,” the regulator added.
In the past, China has seen headlines like “'Infant soup' made of babies’ bodies has been available in Guangdong province ” and “Six criminals escaped from a prison and then murdered 78 women and raped 16 in August,” that led to the central government forming the rumor-monitoring group in August 2013.
The internet regulator has also listed a number of fake news stories that it said had recently circulated on the internet, including one about a bus fire.
The government already exercises extensive control over the internet in the country and attempts to codify that policy in law. Reuters reported that officials say internet restrictions—including blocking access to sites like Google and Facebook—are essential to ensure security in the face of rising threats and spreading of damaging rumors.
However, the international community has repeatedly raised apprehensions about China’s overpowering control over internet access in the country. Foreign governments and business groups have reportedly pointed to restrictions on the internet as a broader trade issue.