The Chinese government has made rumour-mongering a crime in China. This decision comes as rumours and false information about the COVID-19 or Coronavirus are on a rise across the world.
New cyberspace regulations first unveiled last year went into effect Sunday, banning internet users from spreading rumours, as well as insulting, threatening and doxxing people.
The regulations also ban the use of VR or deep learning to defy these new regulations. Social media has proved to be the biggest challenge for the Chinese authorities as it is the major source of misinformation.
The regulations are however unclear on what classifies as a rumour and officials often go wrong. In December, Li Wenliang, a doctor was accused of publishing "false information" and "seriously disrupting social order" by the police because he warned his medical colleagues about an emerging disease, which was later confirmed as coronavirus. He was the first one to detect the virus. He got infected with the virus and later died.
His death has resulted in severe mistrust and anger against the Chinese government. The government itself accepted that their response had not been adequate regarding the virus.
The Chinese authorities are known for going hard after rumours, not always based on evidence. The government was accused of trying to keep the new virus a secret during the initial days of the virus outbreak. Wuhan Police had arrested eight doctors on the accounts of spreading false information regarding the virus.
In 2003, a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in China killed hundreds of people, but the government faced a similar backlash.
While China is going hard against false news on the virus especially on WeChat, the rest of the world is trying to cope up with false information across different social media websites, that has stemmed up from confusion and paranoia over coronavirus.