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Chinese public perceive Internet as major source of rumors: survey

(Xinhua)

11:28, September 09, 2011

BEIJING, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- The majority of participants in an online survey conducted by the China Youth Daily newspaper believe that the Internet is China's most significant source of baseless rumors.

Nearly 86 percent of the 1,714 netizens polled regard the Internet as the most common channel through which unchecked rumors are spread, followed by word-of-mouth and mobile phone text messages, the newspaper said on Thursday.

The popularity of microblogs and other online communication mediums has resulted in the proliferation of falsehoods, due to the fact that netizens are allowed to speak anonymously, according to Hu Yong, an associate professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Peking University.

This anonymity makes it difficult to trace the sources of rumors and verify their authenticity, Hu said.

Sina Weibo, the country's most popular microblogging service, asked its millions of users to help stop the spread of unchecked rumors in August. The company vowed that microbloggers will have their accounts suspended for one month if they are found to be posting messages containing false information.

Top government officials have also weighed in. Liu Qi, secretary of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), encouraged Internet companies in August to stop the spread of "false and harmful information" and to "ensure the authenticity of information and create a healthy online media atmosphere," the Beijing Daily reported on Aug. 23.

At 485 million users, China is home to the world's largest number of registered netizens. The rising popularity of microblogging services has allowed this segment of the country's population to voice their opinions and beliefs in a way that has never been seen before in China.

The number of Chinese microbloggers reached 195 million by the end of June, a stunning increase of 208.9 percent over the number recorded around the end of 2010, according to statistics from the China Internet Network Information Center.

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