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China: Anger Over State TV Attack on Microblogging Platforms

State controlled national television station China Central Television (CCTV), prompted outrage amongst netizens recently with a program entitled ‘Where is the moral bottom line of Microblogs?‘ [zh], broadcast by the channel on August 3, 2011,

Microblogging in China refers to sites such as Sina Weibo [zh] and Twitter, through which news, photos and videos, can be uploaded and shared by anyone. CCTV attacked the credibility of these sites’ so called “yellow journalism”, suggesting that they were major sources of rumor, fraud and marketing, masquerading as legitimate news.

The program also praised the efforts of an online group called the ‘Coalition Against Rumors’ (@piyaolianmeng) [zh], which was initiated by @douhanzhang [zh], an editor at the online public opinion research center of the Communication University of China [zh] – the training center for the 50 Cent Party. [The 50 Cent Party refers to online commentators who actively shape and sway public opinion on the Internet].

Coalition against rumors?

@piyaolianmeng has indeed done some good work in collating information regarding online rumors and frauds. Its latest micro-blog is about a fraud surrounding the death of a newborn baby in the Wenzhou train crash.

However, founder of online shopping website 6688.com and prominent blogger, @laorong, took some screen captures of a recent online discussion by members of the @piyaolianmeng group on instant messenger program QQ, which shows that its main objective is to discredit prominent bloggers and online activists.

Below is a translation of the conversation in the screen capture 1 [zh] and 2 [zh]:

Screenshot of @piyaolianmeng online group discussion attacking online activists and bloggers. Marks indicate highlighted points or names covered up for purposes of privacy.

Screenshot of @piyaolianmeng online group discussion attacking online activists and bloggers. Marks indicate highlighted points or names covered up for purposes of privacy.

The influence of V users is huge, we need to target at clearing them. [V users have their identity verified by the hosting website.]

In the future, when there is an issue to follow up, we have to work together. Let's signal each other in the group, I will join in.

Right, rumors are always motivated by some larger political and social causes.

Being a coalition, we need more group combating activities.

We need to base on facts and target individuals, work out a style that is different from the current sick online culture.

We need evidence to crack @laorong [Lao rong is a prominent blogger and founder of 6688.com]

I suggest we choose more viable targets. Between @laorong and @lichengpeng, it is better to crack down @lichengpeng [Li Chengpeng is a prominent writer].

@lichengpeng is more influential.

@xjb is also disgusting [xjb is Beijing News' username at Weibo]

These rumor spreaders are ill-hearted.

@laorong is watched by the Apple guy [The Apple guy is @xzhang]

Big eye [@lichengpeng's nickname] is very witty, he seldom makes original posts. He just adds inciting comments in the re-post.

Let's work together and crack down on one of them.

Professor of the Communication Department in Shenzhen University, @imsunhaifeng[zh], re-posted [zh] the screen capture in his micro-blog and attracted more than 6,000 comments. Below is a selected translation of the comments:

北区青年 随着公民意识的觉醒,统治者已经由最初的单纯的愚民,转变成了,先说一顿和民意相同的论调。然后默默接近你,最后由一帮暴徒出手,干掉意见领袖,继续维护河蟹!(20秒前)

@btchina01: Now that people have developed citizen consciousness, the ruler is also evolving. Instead of cheating people, they use common language to get close to you. Then a group of thugs appear and murder the opinion leader in order to defend the river crab.

會笑嘚豬 上升到集团作战的高度了!大眼厉害啊,但是大眼不要怕,你身后,有千千万万的草根支持你,不要怕这些垃圾,一切反动派在人民大众面前都是纸老虎!(40秒前)

@1470016555: The battle is elevated to the level of the coalition! Big eyes is so influential. Please don't be afraid, thousands of grassroots are backing you up. Don't be afraid of this group of trash. They are just paper tigers in front of the people.

苏珊大爷- 希特勒:“不要让青少年有判断力。只要给他们汽车摩托车明星、刺激的音乐、流行的服饰、以及竞争意识就行了。剥夺青少年的思考力,根植他们服从指导者命令的服从心。让他们对批判国家、社会和领袖抱着一种憎恶。让他们深信那是少数派和异端者的罪恶。让他们认为想法和大家不同的就是公敌。”(3分鐘前)

@1556623222: Hitler: “Don't let the young people develop their judgement. Just give them motor cycle, pop stars, stimulating music, fashion, and spirit of competition. Take away their independent thought, let them be obedient to the leaders. Let them hate all the criticisms against state, society and leaders. Let them believe that such kind of talk is crime of certain minorities and dissents. Let them believe that those who are different in their thought are state enemy.”

启网中国 网络有黑社会又不是一天两天了,D黑联合是迟早的事儿(4分鐘前)

@7idc: Online triads have existed for a long time. The coalition of triads will come sooner or later.

aoners 请五毛前来辟谣(6分鐘前)

@aoners: 50 cent [party], please come here to clear up the rumors.

WinonaR 很难在其他法治国家的刑法里找到“传播谣言”的罪名。“谣言”作为一种言论,不能因其内容“不符合事实”就能入罪。宪法保障公民的言论自由,并没有把内容“符合事实”作为受保护的先决条件,因为法律不可能对人要求做不到的事情。(11分鐘前)

@WinonaR: Other countries do not criminalize “rumor”. We cannot criminalize “rumor” just because it is not factual. Our constitution protects citizen's freedom of speech and “factual” is not the precondition of such protection. The law cannot demand something people cannot do.

Where is the moral bottom line of CCTV?

Bloggers are worried that the CCTV program marks a prelude to the tightening of censorship on microblogging platforms. Moreover, as a propaganda machine, netizens believe that CCTV tells more lies than ordinary people, which has many of them to raise the question: where is the moral bottom line of CCTV?

China Central Television (CCTV) is the national TV station of the People´s Republic of China

China Central Television (CCTV) is the national TV station of the People´s Republic of China

杨过私人会所:CCTV质问微博的伦理底线在哪里?我不禁哑然失笑。 面对中国百姓看不起病,上不起学,住不起房,养不起老,买不起墓……CCTV却熟视无睹,编制谎言:童话世界、和谐社会、春天的故事,还时不时让小宋出来唱首《好日子》,请问CCTV:你的道德底线又在哪里?

@chengyifu [zh]: CCTV questions the moral bottom line of Weibo. I can't stop laughing. In a society where people cannot afford health care, school, accommodation, retirement and grave, CCTV ignores all this and lies about it. It creates fairy tales, a harmonious society, and from time to time invite little Song to sing the song “Good day”. Please tell me where is your moral bottom line?

历史袁老师新微博:央视问微博的伦理底线在哪里?新浪网友回答:1)微博是腐败的曝光机;2)微博是谣言的粉碎机;3)微博是真相的挖掘机;4)微博是自由声音的发动机;5)微博是民众微言的呼吸机;6)微博是社会空气的清洁机;7)微博是事件记录的影像机;8)微博是推动社会进步的永动机。总的来说,微博利大于弊

@2263051075 [zh]: CCTV asks where is the moral bottom line of Weibo? Here is a summary of Sina netizens’ answer: 1. Weibo is a machine for exposing corruption; 2. Weibo is a machine for clearing rumors; 3. Weibo is a machine for digging into truth; 4. Weibo is a machine for free voices; 5. Weibo is a breathing machine for the people; 6. Weibo is the society's air cleaner; 7. Weibo is a video recorder for social happenings; 8. Weibo is the motor for social progress. All in all, Weibo does more good that bad.

老丑:今天,CCTV的新闻频道讨论了一下关于报道了微博上的造假现象。并问:微博的伦理底线在哪里?http://t.cn/aQRYuP 现想问几个问题:1.CCTV的伦理底线在哪里?2.微博上的谣言和CCTV上的谣言,哪个更多?哪个更离谱?哪个影响更大?

@sunhaobob [zh]: Today CCTV‘s news channel discusses the phenomena of rumors and frauds in Weibo and asks: Where is the moral bottom line of Weibo? http://t.cn/aQRYuP Here I want to ask a few questions: 1. Where is the moral bottom line of CCTV? 2. Which of the two produces more rumors, Weibo or CCTV? Which of the two is more outraging? Which of the two is more influential?

刘兴亮:昨天,CCTV《朝闻天下》播出名为“微博的伦理底线在哪里?”的节目,称微博造假多有幕后推手,质疑微博伦理底线。这个节目我读出了两层意思:1、微博开始被妖魔化;2、官方准备开始治理微博舆论。

@liuxingliang [zh]: Yesterday CCTV‘s ‘Morning News feature’ had a program on ‘Where is the moral bottom line of Weibo?’ and claims that there are invisible forces behind the rumors and frauds. This program has two implications: 1. They have started to demonize Weibo; 2. The authorities have started to manage public opinion of Weibo.

解决网许怀哲:我们这些小屁民能坏到哪去?能没有底线到哪去?我们再坏也不会去强拆,也不会造三聚氰胺奶,也不会挖空心思把老百姓的钱都掏出来。跟我们谈伦理底线,你们Y没资格,老子之所以没成知名企业家,知名官员,就是因为老子有底线。

@chinasolution [zh]: How bad can ordinary people be? How low can our moral bottom line be? We cannot be as bad as to forcibly demolish other people's houses or to produce poisonous milk or to exploit people's saving. How dare you talk to us about the moral bottom line? The reason why I am not a wealthy businessman or government official is because I have a bottom line.

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