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Microblogs seek to stop rumors

(Global Times)

15:12, September 21, 2011

Sina Weibo, a major microblogging service in China, said it is developing a credibility rating system that will simplify content management so as to reduce potential threats to social stability by false online information.

"We have been doing research on how to establish a credibility system over the past few months… we may cite the way that vendors on e-commerce websites get rated by their clients as a potential model," CEO Charles Cao said at the China Digital Media Summit 2011 held in Beijing.

Critics of the popular microblog system say it allows rumors to spread quickly, resulting in huge damage to individuals and the government.

"As of June, the number of posts on Weibo has reached about 75 million every day, a figure that is still increasing rapidly," Cao said.

Microblogging services have seen explosive growth in the past two years and Sina claims its Weibo website has attracted 200 million users since it was launched in 2009.

"We will punish those who spread malicious rumors," Cao said.

He added that well-known and widely respected microbloggers could play a self-mediating role, and a more reliable regulatory regime should be applied.

It is regarded as an efficient platform for the public to voice their opinions, and which could help authorities to improve their work.

Last month, a protest by local people in Dalian of Liaoning Province against a toxic petrochemical plant spreading on Weibo drew local government attention, resulting in authorities promising to relocate the factory.

Li Yonggang, an IT expert with Nanjing University, conceded to the Global Times on Tuesday that it would be difficult for Sina to follow the way of e-commerce websites in terms of rating users through their followers.

"It appears to be impossible for Sina to establish a system for users to comment on each and every post. That would result in huge data flow and slow down the login process and so forth. It would also harm its core value to attract users."

One simple way for Sina to tackle rumors would be to strengthen verification of users' identities, Li added.

Zhan Jiang, a journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said to the Global Times on Tuesday that "some stressed their functions in promoting transparency, while some saw it as a place for rumors that may affect social stability."

"The urgent issue for the authorities was to establish related regulations for microblogs to provide a legal basis on which they could function," he said.
In a recent case, a microblogger published two photos of children playing at a brick factory, but said that they were working at the factory in Yuyao, Zhejiang Province.

The Sina operators quickly discovered and exposed the rumor.

In a sign of increasing attention to new media platforms, Party chief of Beijing Liu Qi visited Sina's headquarters last month, pointing out that Internet companies should step up the application and management of new technology and put an end to fake and misleading information, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Shi Xiaohui contributed to this story

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