Chinese police arrest over 1,500 for online rumours in campaign targeting influencers, bloggers and live-streamers

China’s Ministry of Public Security said police around the country have made over 1,500 arrests and solved 10,000 cases since the launch of a campaign targeting online rumours in December.

The ministry has imposed administrative penalties on about 10,700 people and debunked more than 4,200 rumours since it launched the campaign last December, according to a Tuesday report by People’s Daily. The numbers were first released on Saturday on the official WeChat account of the ministry’s cybersecurity office.

The campaign has identified and investigated illegal activities that make money from spreading rumours about hot-button issues. Specifically, the ministry has clamped down on influencers, bloggers and video producers who “stage photos maliciously or fabricate rumours” regarding the pandemic, dangers or disasters.


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The latest round focused on social media, live-streaming and short-video platforms, where the ministry shut down 63,000 illegal accounts and cleaned up more than 735,000 posts that contained rumours, according to the WeChat post.

The ministry shared 10 examples of rumour-related cases targeted in the campaign, including the case of top influencer “Thurman Maoyibei”, whose accounts were shut down over the weekend after she fabricated a viral story about a young boy and his schoolbooks.

Thurman Maoyibei – whose real surname is Xu, according to police – has more than 30 million followers across different platforms. In February, she posted a video claiming a waiter in Paris had given her some textbooks that had been left behind by a Chinese boy named Qin Lang. Xu said she would embark on a mission to return them to the boy back in China.

The video went viral and attracted millions of clicks and comments on Weibo and Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, prompting online users to search for the boy. A week later, Xu said in another video that she had found the boy’s family and returned the textbooks to him.

After receiving complaints about the authenticity of Xu’s story, police in the eastern city of Hangzhou opened an investigation into the case and found the story was fake. Xu and an accomplice had bought the books with the aim of creating the viral video, according to police, who slapped them with administrative penalties.

Xu’s accounts on various online platforms were shut down after she was ordered to post a final video on Friday apologising for making up the story. She acknowledged her actions had “disrupted the internet order and resulted in massive negative influence”.

China launches another internet crackdown targeting online rumours

Chinese media outlets criticised Xu’s actions and other attention-grabbing antics that “disrupt social order online”.

“Some ‘internet celebrities’ and influencers blatantly fabricate [stories] to gain traffic in the pursuit of profits, having crossed the moral and legal bottom lines,” People’s Daily said in a commentary on Saturday. “The moral bottom line cannot be stepped on, the legal ‘red line’ cannot be touched, and the influencers’ fraudulent trend must be stopped!”

In other cases cited by the ministry, police in the central province of Hubei arrested a person who posted articles falsely claiming an influencer was a sex worker, while police in Hunan province punished a person who used artificial intelligence tools to make up a rumour about grass-roots policemen resigning. In two other cases, AI was used to generate fake posts about bombs, natural disasters and gene-editing experiments.

The public security ministry has imposed more than 590 administrative penalties on websites and platforms since the campaign started in December, according to its WeChat post.


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