China’s crackdown on editors deleting negative comments

Beijing, Sep 11 (IANS) Staff members at prominent news portals are facing imprisonment during a special campaign launched in China to crack down on those deleting negative comments for profit and online blackmail, the media reported on Friday.

The campaign was launched on January 21, jointly chaired by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the public security ministry, industry and information technology ministry and the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, the Global Times reported.

The authorities discovered that an ifeng.com’s editor accepted 118,000 yuan ($18,000) to delete posts on the portal’s website.

He charged 800 yuan for each article he deleted and Beijing’s Chaoyang District Court handed the editor a five-year prison sentence for taking bribes in June.

The Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate issued a judicial interpretation in September 2013, saying the deleting of information for profit was illegal and should be punished.

Paid post-deleting refers to the practice of removing information (mostly negative reports) from websites, which is mostly carried out by public relation (PR) companies who bribe editors to do their dirty work. Some editors use negative reports to coax companies and individuals into paying money to have them taken down.

A total of 136 websites that were judged to have serious problems were investigated by local cyberspace offices, including ce.cn, a business news portal sponsored by the Beijing-based Economic Daily and youth.cn, a news portal under the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China.

Since January, over 9 million pieces of information were deleted for profit. In response, the authorities removed or filtered over 9,000 keywords related to post-deletion search engines.

One Web editor, who allegedly made 7.8 million yuan by deleting posts for four years, said that the business of paid post-deleting could generate over 100 million yuan per year and provide thousands of PR jobs.

A total of 13,883 accounts on five of China’s major websites (sina.com.cn, sohu.com, qq.com, 163.com and baidu.com) have been shut down or blocked for illegal practices, according to a CAC statement.

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