Mainland China is in the midst of a fresh crackdown on internet speech known as the “Anti-Rumor Campaign.” Details are complex, but in a nutshell, if you post something that the government deems false which: has “a bad international effect;” is “damaging to the national interest;” or, causes a mass protest (among other things) you can can be sent to prison for three years. To be subject to this strict penalty, the post or message must have been either viewed 5,000 times or reposted 500 times.
Three of the messages below resulted in the arrest and detainment of citizens in China. Can you pick out which posts saw their authors detained? (Click to enlarge)
The correct answers are A, C and E. (Please note that for C and E, I manufactured the post content based on news reports as the original posts are unavailable in English translation. Online usernames and thumbnail pictures, except for Yang Hui’s photograph (E), are also faked.)
A: The Anhui woman who posted a question on Sina Weibo asking about a murder in Louzhuang was deemed to be “disrupting public order” and was arrested.
C: Another Anhui women said that 16 people had died in a road accident. The official number was 10. She was placed under five days of administrative detention for “spreading rumors.”
E: Sixteen-year-old Yang Hui was just released on Monday after intervention by two activist Chinese lawyers. He had posted several times about a questionable investigation of a local karaoke bar manager’s death. He had also posted photographs of protestors demanding a more thorough investigation.
B, D, and F are completely false and fabricated by me.
B: Canadian Mark Rowswell (aka Da Shan 大山) is a famous media personality in China who learned perfect Mandarin through his own dedicated hard work. He regularly (and voluntarily) appears in Chinese New Year TV Galas and other CCTV programing.
D: Breathing in Beijing, while unhealthy many days of the year, is not the equivalent of smoking 34 cigarettes per day.
F: The Great Wall of China is not visible from the moon with the naked eye, let alone from Mars.
Sources and more information
For an overview of the new crack-down, see: China threatens tough punishment for online rumor spreading, Reuters, 9 Sept 2013.
For more information on the online rumor crackdown and its impact on “small fish” like the two Anhui women, see: In China being retweeted 500 times could get you three years in prison, Quartz, 9 Sept 2013 by Gwynn Guilford.
For more on the recent and well-publicized Yang Hui case see: 16-year-old Weibo user detained in Gansu under new online rumor rule, South China Morning Post, 19 Sept 2013 by Teddy Ng; Detained teenager, no Bo Xilai, focus of online debate, South China Morning Post, 22 Sept 2013 by Patrick Boehler; and, Is a 16 year old boy’s release a victory for netizens in China’s internet crackdown?, South China Morning Post, 23 Sept 2013 by Patrick Boehler.
For an overview of China’s “Seven Base Lines” policy which is meant to guide and sanitize the online posts of China’s “thought leaders,” see: China’s “Seven Base Lines” for a clean internet, China Media Project, 27 Aug 2013 by David Bandurski.
For information on the “chilling effect” of the new policies see: Is anti-rumour crackdown silencing voices of dissent on Weibo?, South China Morning Post, 13 Sept 2013 by Patrick Boehler.