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Date:13/04/12

China issues fresh warning against Internet rumors

Chinese officials issued a fresh warning against Internet rumors, calling on companies in the sector to remain vigilant in policing content on their websites and microblogs.
In an article by the official Xinhua News Agency posted on the main government website, the officials said the government would punish anyone responsible for the spread of rumors.

Although the article didn't mention any new penalties or single out any companies, and also appeared to be a reiteration of past warnings, it followed a wave of Internet postings about a feud within the senior ranks of the ruling Communist Party surrounding the events that led to the ousting of senior Communist Party official Bo Xilai this week.

In the Xinhua article, two senior officials described rumors as a "malignant tumor."
The officials, Zhao Zhiguo of China's Communication Security Bureau and Liu Zhengrong of the State Internet Information Office, said Internet companies should take responsibility for controlling the spread of rumors on their sites.

The officials took aim at China's microblogs, which in the two years since their rise have become a significant source of information sharing. Liu said China had shuttered 42 websites and removed more than 210,000 posts since the middle of March.

China's microblogs, in particular Sina Corp.'s Twitter-like microblog service "weibo," have flourished recently adding more than 200 million users, but some analysts have worried about the continuing success of the sites as the government seeks to exert increasingly control of the sites.

The lack of official comment as the scandal unfolded may have compounded the problem.
Zhao specifically referred to talk of "troops entering Beijing," a reference to unfounded rumors late last month of a coup in the Chinese capital.

The warnings come just weeks after the government briefly turned off commenting features on the country's two most popular microblogs operated by Sina and Tencent Holdings Ltd.

The warnings also followed a two-hour blackout of access to popular Chinese and foreign websites, including Baidu and ESPN, within China Thursday. Users outside China also reported difficulty accessing Chinese websites.

The blackout itself led to a raft of rumors about the cause, with some speculating it was due to damage done to undersea cables after Wednesday's 8.6-magnitude earthquake near Aceh, Indonesia. But others guessed the blocked sites were the result of adjustments to the firewall following the sensitive news about Bo's fall. Network operators China Telecom and China Unicom weren't immediately available for comment about the blackout
 




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