Beijing has been embroiled in a campaign against online rumor-mongering of late. In a recent judicial ruling, the government announced stiff penalties for posting rumors that get shared 500 times or seen 5,000 times. Civil-liberties advocates say the ruling, with its possible three-year jail sentence, sets a dangerous precedent for free speech.
The new law is so extreme that even some domestic intellectuals have begun criticizing it.
Among the critics is Zhu Mingguo, a key party official in the province of Guangdong. His criticism of the anti-rumor rule might sound familiar to some in the West frustrated with how legacy organizations have adapted (or not) to new technology.
“In an environment of new media, we should take the initiative … and seek breakthroughs in propaganda on the Internet … and should not simply resort to the means of ‘delete’, ‘shut down’ and ‘reject’,” Zhu said, according to local media reports last week.
Zhu isn’t the only official to voice his concerns over the crackdown. According to the South China Morning Post, Guangzhou law enforcement called the new policy a potential “nightmare” on its microblog — a post that was then shared by another provincial body’s official account.