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China launches web platform to crush ‘online rumours’

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An online platform designed to eradicate ‘online rumours’ has been launched in China as Beijing ramps up efforts to increase the presence of its state-sponsored news agenda.

The platform, called Piyao, will be available on desktop PCs and a mobile app and invites users to report on content they find online and even uses artificial intelligence to identify reports deemed to be false. 

Piyao, which translates as ‘refuting rumours’, will also be a source of ‘real news with users being fed reports from state-owned media, party-controlled local newspapers and various government agencies according to Reuters.

The Chinese government has been making strides to tighten its grip on the content available to its citizens this year.

It was reported earlier this month that Google is working on a new version of its search engine for China that would adhere to the government’s censorship rules several years after it pulled out of the country.

Apple also removed around 25,000 apps from its Chinese App Store in recent weeks in an effort to align with national regulations surrounding gambling. 

“Rumours violate individual rights; rumours create social panic; rumours cause fluctuations in the stock markets; rumours impact normal business operations; rumours blatantly attack revolutionary martyrs,” Piyao said in a promotional video of the launch on its website.

Official data show internet regulators received 6.7 million reports of illegal and false information in July, with most of the cases coming from Sina, which owns Weibo, Tencent, which owns Wechat, Baidu, and Alibaba.

Chinese laws dictate that rumour-mongers could be charged with defamation, and they face up to seven years in prison. Online posts that contain rumours visited by 5,000 internet users or are reposted more than 500 times could also incur jail sentences.

Hosted by the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission in affiliation with the official Xinhua news agency, Piyao has integrated over 40 local rumour-refuting platforms and uses artificial intelligence to identify rumours.

The platform operates under the guidance of 27 government departments, including the Central Party School, which trains rising officials, and powerful planning body the National Development and Reform Commission.

Chinese media regularly reports on – and refutes – popular rumours that circulate online, though generally only mentions topics involving issues like corrupt local officials or health scares, rather than anything more salacious about senior leaders.

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