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China Initiate Mass Social Media Shutdown Due to 'Spreading Rumour'

Ren Zhiqiang (via scmp.com)
It's sometime easy to forget that while we all do our own thing in the west, followed closely by Australasia, parts of Asia and Africa, one of the largest nations on the planet still lives in its own social media bubble. China's outright refusal to accept the dominance of Facebook and Twitter would be admirable if it wasn't largely motivated by a desire to keep the population pacified, but social media will always propagate the free spread of ideas, the Chinese government can't stop that, but they'll do all they can to muzzle it.

Case in point - over the weekend more than 580 accounts were suspended, primarily on Weibo. Included in those 580 were several celebrities, political commentators and journalists, who, according to the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), "ignored social responsibilities and abused their influence to publish information that violated the Constitution and damaged the national interest".

The CAC are also claiming that these people have made up detrimental rumours and used social media to circulate them throughout the country and beyond, but the exact nature of these rumours is unclear. Some of it is easy to figure out, two particularly well known people to be blocked - actor Sun Haiying and businessman Ren Zhiqiang - have been known to challenge either current or former political actions, Ren has directly contested the actions of president Xi Jinping, whilst Sun has supposedly made 'disrespectful' comments about former leader Mao Zedong in the past.

It might seem like speaking ill of Mao Zedong isn't that big of a deal, he's been dead for decades after all, but in China his legacy is still closely protected, with the official governmental stance being that he was the greatest leader the nation has ever known. His image is literally everywhere in China, the way you'd see Che Guevara's being banded about elsewhere, but somehow with Mao it's even more tragically ironic.

This mass silencing comes partially as a result of the president's recent tour of 3 of the largest Chinese media outlets. He convened a meeting during which he allegedly demanded that they pledge to serve party needs more resolutely. Ren, or 'Cannon Ren' as he's often known, actually jumped on Weibo to challenge this decision later that day. “Don’t go using taxpayer money to do things that aren’t in service of taxpayers.” He said.

With comments like that, it's easy to see why his accounts were some of the first to be taken down, but the blocks that followed demonstrate that even the most vaguely anti-governmental sentiment is going to be met with the same response. It seems like from here on the CAC will be deciding what is news and what is rumour, but if they think they can keep unflattering stories, true or false, under wraps by monitoring social media, they're in for a nasty surprise.

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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China Initiate Mass Social Media Shutdown Due to 'Spreading Rumour' Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, March 02, 2016 Rating: 5

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