Weibo's latest crackdown? Fake news about investments
China's Twitter-like microblogging service shuts down accounts for spreading fake investment rumors
One of China’s leading social media platforms said it took down a number of accounts over the past week for spreading fake investment rumours in the latest example of Chinese internet companies self-censoring their content amid an ongoing government clean up of cyberspace.
Sina, the owner of the Twitter-style microblog Weibo, said that “according to the relevant laws and regulations”, it suspended or shut down 37 accounts which published “misleading investment information” or were involved in “securities frauds”.
“The accounts seduce customers into purchasing illegal wealth management products and commit fraud by posting fake investment information,” said the statement. “Weibo will continue to crack down on the illegal accounts and also welcomes [users] to report if any misleading information is found.”
The action comes amid an ongoing crackdown on social media as the Chinese government pushes its tech companies to do more to censor their own content. In a internet-based world where fake news can reach billions of people instantly and online manipulation is becoming more sophisticated, governments across the globe are increasingly turning to legislation to combat the problem. In China, authorities are leaning on social media platforms such as Weibo and WeChat to more rigorously monitor posts by their users.
Chinese popular social media platform WeChat said it had suspended or closed 45,000 copycat official accounts from the start of the year to September, according to Xinhua news agency. More than 36 per cent of these fake accounts involved fraudulent content, while 25 per cent claimed to be able to offer high investment returns.
China has long censored what its citizens can read and say on the internet, from live-streaming videos to social media platforms. Earlier this year, Chinese authorities introduced regulations targeting the country’s burgeoning short video industry, singling out 100 categories of banned content, ranging from smearing the image of Communist Party leaders to sexual moaning. Consequently, China’s social media companies employ thousands of staff to censor content that might fall afoul of the country’s stringent regulations governing the internet.
Beyond social media platforms, China has extend its grip on cyberspace to certain e-commerce platforms. Early this month, Beijing included censorship of content as part of sweeping new regulations targeting online travel agencies. The 42 specific regulations, drafted by China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, include rules mandating that online travel providers are responsible for regulating content that their customers upload onto their platforms, including text, pictures, audio and videos.
Self-censorship has also spread to cryptocurrencies. Earlier this month, Alipay and WeChat Pay separately issued statements clarifying their current policies which forbid cryptocurrency-related transactions on their payment platforms. The statements came before Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings acknowledged that Facebook’s proposed Libra cryptocurrency could pose a serious threat to existing digital payment systems.
Facebook removed more than 3 billion fake accounts from last October to March, according to a report released in May by the social network, while Twitter suspended more than 70 million fake accounts in May and June, according to data obtained by the Washington Post.
(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba, the operator of Alipay.)