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Chinese Social Media Users are Rumor-Happy, Low-Educated, Report Says

A new report from the state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences that labels social media in China as a rumor mill and social media users in China as having low levels of education and income is raising alarm among netizens.

The academy released its Annual Report on the Development of China's Audio-visual New Media (2013) on June 25. The three major findings of the report include:

1. The majority of social media users belong to the “three lows”, characterized by low age, low level of education, and low income.

29 percent of microbloggers are in their 20s, 26 percent are in their teens, and 25 percent in their 30s. 80 percent of all microbloggers are below 40.

75 percent of users on China's popular microblogging website Sina Weibo have only completed a high school education and 92 percent earn less than 5,000 yuan [800 US dollars] per month.

Annual Report on the Development of China's Audio-visual New Media (2013)

Annual Report on the Development of China's Audio-visual New Media (2013)

2. Among the 100 hot topics appeared in the period of the study, January 2012 to January 2013, more than one third of the information and comments related to these topics were rumors, the report said.

3. The contribution of new media in revealing corruption has exceeded conventional media outlets, but the report also says there is a vulgar turn in new media anti-corruption efforts and suggests [zh] real-name registration to prevent the spread of rumors and invasion of privacy.

The “three lows” label

In China, the labeling of a certain social group usually implies that they are being targeted by some upcoming political campaign. With the characterization of social media users as the “three lows”, many on the Internet feared that the report provides a policy guideline for the government to further control and monitor people's speech.

In the Weibo comment [zh] thread of Kai-fu Lee, many netizens opened fire at the inverse of the “three lows” — the “three highs”:

小p亚风:MD,没有“三低人群”谁去喂养那些大吃大喝大包的“三高人渣”

@”Tiny P Asian Style”: Mother f–ker. Without the “three lows” who would feed the extravagant “three highs”?

水晶球O:又在有意识的吹风,象上次说:网络不是法外之地一样,中国的这些混账话决不是空穴来风。其实象这种挂着科学的牌子,和科学没毛关系的奴才单位,早该让他下岗了。

@”Crystal ball”: This is another ideological wind. Last time it said: the Internet is not an lawless space. This kind of bullshit in China does not come from no where. They use “science” to cover-up [their political intentions], this kind of research unit that has nothing to do with science and should be abolished.

CarolP:搞什么上纲上线的阶级对立呀

@CarolP: Isn't this a kind of hardline class struggle language?

Rumor aggregator

The accusation that one-third of rumors come from social media caused much outrage as spreading rumors is a crime in China. To pacify angry netizens, Communist Party mouthpiece newspaper the People's Daily amended its presentation of the report [zh], stressing that new media is not rumor aggregator. However, the newspaper also stated that because microbloggers spread information according to their personal judgement, the risk of probability of distributing rumors is much higher and thus suggested that users should protect their account and fame, “like birds protecting their feathers”.

However, the People's Daily's advice was met with sarcasm in its comment section:

陆继忠:“新媒体不是谣言集散地”这个观点本人赞同,因为中国造谣的专利权已经被党刊、党报所申请保护,所以再有人造谣就是侵犯专利。

@Lu Jizhong: “I agree that new media is not rumor aggregator” because the production of rumors has been monopolized by party-affiliated journals, newspapers. For those who dare to spread rumors will be infringing their rights.

博狮锁1博士锁:真理的谣言是谣言,谣言的谣言是真理

@”Boshisuo”: Rumor that reveals truth is rumor, rumor about rumor is the truth.

Neodoxy:老媒体应该像爱护自己的眼睛一样爱护党的口舌,千万不要动不动就瞎喷、动不动就瞎舔、动不动就瞎吹。。。

@Neodoxy: Conventional media [like the People's Daily] should protect [their position as] the party's mouthpiece like people protecting their eyes, don't just shut your eyes and keep bull-shitting, ass-kissing and boasting.

wsirsir:批发谣言的风光,零售谣言的封杀,谣言也搞垄断?

@wsirsir: Rumor wholesalers are praised, rumor distributors are blocked. Rumor has to be monopolized as well?

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