Rumors spreads fast on social medias, and WeChat Moments, a relationship-based social media, is the perfect platform to spread rumors. This creates potential threat to Chinese authorities. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), a state backed institution, revealed a study about “false rumors” on Chinese social medias.
WeChat rumors – CASS Report
The report states that 7% of false rumors start from WeChat and 59% of false rumors start from Weibo. However, because WeChat is a relationship-centric social media, rumors on WeChat has a lot higher stickiness and is harder to correct.
This state-backed research also shows the most widespread “false rumors” are related to events leading to negative emotions such as fear and anger. The most wide spread “false rumors” are articles related to food safety, safety incidents, and health crisis.
Release of WeChat Operation Center to monitor WeChat rumors
Immediately followed by the release of CASS’s report, the official Tencent’s WeChat account released data about the “false rumors” they intercept on a platform called “WeChat Operation Center”. It includes three section:
- WeChat Rules
- Billboard of punished accounts punished in a week for violation of WeChat rules
- The number of articles considered to be “false remors” and deleted
Tencent states that this “platform will continue to announce sample list of the deleted accounts to show what is focus of rumors regulation in hope WeChat account operator will obey the rules”.
Thousands of accounts got punished for spreading “rumors”, it is not clear the level of punishment is temporary block, or permanently account deletion. As of July 11th, the number of accounts that were punished due to “false rumors” is as follow:
- Violation of the law (1561)
- Pornography (2433)
- Incentivised sharing (675)
- Copyright issue (54)
- Patent violation (123)
- Scams (486)
The account also shows 225,423 “false rumors” were deleted is on July 6th.
False Rumors Outside of China
Outside of China, false rumors on social media also creates problem for the authorities. A research by University of Michigan visualize the spread of false rumore during the Boston boming insident in 2013:
One week after the Boston bombing, the official Twitter account of the Associated Press (AP) was hacked. The hacked account sent out a tweet about two explosions in the White House and the President being injured. Even though the account was quickly suspended, this rumor spread to millions of users. In such a special context, the rumor raised an immediate panic, which resulted in a dramatic, though brief, crash of the stock market.
This graph plots the number of tweets per hour of each identified rumor statement. The dotted blue line in the background shows the number of tweets arriving in that hour.
The research also plot the 10 top-ranked rumors for each day on November 2013 on Twitter and tracked them.
Like all social media in China (Weibo, QQ, Zhuhu, Tudou…), WeChat is closely monitored by authorities. When marketing through Chinese social media, companies ought to be aware of what is considered to be “false rumors”in order to avoid unnecessary punishment.