China’s censors have been working in overdrive trying to cleanse the web of “dangerous misinformation” in the days after Tianjin was hit by massive explosions. Working with impressive efficiency, they’ve already announced punishment for the worst offenders.
In a statement released late on Saturday, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) accused 50 websites of “creating panic by publishing unverified information or letting users spread groundless rumors,” reports Xinhua.
Some of the more groundless of these included “the blasts killed at least 1,000 people,” “shopping malls in Tianjin have been looted” and “there was a leadership change in Tianjin government.”
The CAC said that these lies have negative effects on society—much like chemical explosions for example.18 of the websites have had their licenses revoked, while the 32 others have merely been suspended.
Tencent News reports that a male netizen has been sentenced to five days in jail after posting rumors that 1,300 people had been killed in the explosions.
The Internet regulator seems to be the only functioning government agency at the moment. https://t.co/mH1BuGFdpD
— Li Yuan (@LiYuan6) August 16, 2015
Earlier this week, Chinese censors squashed rumors that pollutants from the explosion were headed to Beijing, assuring everyone that the wind would blow them to the sea (and possibly Korea) instead.
They’ve also been liberally deleting posts on Weibo. One of the most deleted posts came from esteemed Caijing magazine, which cited an interview with a firefighter who said that they were not told that there were toxic chemicals on scene that would react dangerously with water. The post was retweeted almost 10,000 times before being harmonized. Other posts speculating about the contents of the pollutants and what that means for the city’s air have also been among the top expunged.