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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

China Detains Teen For Viral Social Media Post

Joseph Krassenstein |
September 20, 2013 | 2:39 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Dennis Kruyt// Creative Commons
Dennis Kruyt// Creative Commons
Starting last week, the Chinese government issued a new policy to prevent “online rumors” on social media platforms from spreading to the masses. The policy states that if an individual’s post gets more than 500 retweets or 5,000 views, of which the government deems inaccurate, the individual could face three years in prison. 

This new policy comes at a time when China can no longer control the amount of people negatively posting and blogging about the Chinese government. Therefore this new policy is meant to limit the amount of people posting criticizing government practices.

China’s biggest fear is that a viral post could lead to a protest. Now with the incredible ease of sharing comments compared to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, the Chinese government seems to be more fearful of mass protests.

The biggest question however, is how well this new policy be enforced.

So far, the government has stuck to its word and police in Zhangjiachuan County, Gansu province have already detained a 16-year-old male student for “disrupting social order”, says the Beijing Times. The student, surnamed Yang, posted shortly after a suspicious death of a local man who died in front of a karaoke bar after suffering from head wounds from what was said to have been a fall.

Local authorities said the death was ruled accidental but there is still confusion as to what exactly happened. The family of the deceased believes he was first beaten before being thrown out of a window. 

Sina Weibo, the world's largest social media platform. // Creative Commons
Sina Weibo, the world's largest social media platform. // Creative Commons

The posts that appeared on Sina Weibo (China’s biggest social media blogging platform with 503 million registered users in Dec. 2012) said, “After the 9/12 Zhangjiachuan murder case, the police didn't act. Worse, they quarreled with the crowds and even beat up the relatives of the deceased.” In a later post he continued, “Police forcibly detained the deceased’s family members, and clashed with masses.” 

These online rumors are exactly the type that the Chinese government fear, as they give police a bad reputation and are not confirmed to be true.  Under the new law, “online rumors” are only illegal if they were created with the intention to harm someone else’s image and in this case, it was in the direction of the police.

This new policy will certainly limit the already little amount of free speech that Chinese citizens have, but may also create a general fear of posting. 


Reach Staff Reporter Joseph Krassenstein here.



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