China launches AI-backed platform to eliminate ‘online rumors’

Reuters

China has launched a platform, which includes a mobile app, that lets the public report “online rumors” and even uses artificial intelligence to identify reports that are false amid crackdown by Beijing on what it views as socially destabilizing content.

The platform, launched Wednesday, comes as Beijing steps up efforts to police the internet, especially social media used by people to discuss politics and other sensitive subjects, despite stringent censorship.

Besides a website, the platform Piyao — which means “refuting rumors” — also has a mobile app and accounts with social media giants Weibo and WeChat.

Via those channels, Piyao will broadcast “real” news, sourcing reports from state-owned media, party-controlled local newspapers and various government agencies.

“Rumors violate individual rights; rumors create social panic; rumors cause fluctuations in the stock markets; rumors impact normal business operations; rumors blatantly attack revolutionary martyrs,” Piyao said in a promotional video of the launch on its website.

Official data show internet regulators received 6.7 million reports of illegal and false information in July, with most of the cases coming from Weibo owner Sina, WeChat owner Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba.

Chinese laws dictate that rumormongers could be charged with defamation, and they face up to seven years in prison. Online posts that contain rumors visited by 5,000 internet users or are reposted more than 500 times could also incur jail sentences.

Hosted by the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission in affiliation with the official Xinhua News Agency, Piyao has integrated over 40 local rumor-refuting platforms and uses artificial intelligence to identify rumors.

The platform operates under the guidance of 27 government departments, including the Central Party School, which trains rising officials, and powerful planning body the National Development and Reform Commission.

Chinese media regularly reports on — and refutes — popular rumors that circulate online, though generally only mentions topics involving issues such as corrupt local officials or health scares, rather than anything more salacious about senior leaders.

President Xi Jinping said last year that China will build a “clean and clear” internet space.