BEIJING, April 12 (Xinhua) -- Chinese authorities have removed more than 210,000 online posts and shut down 42 websites since mid-March in their latest crackdown on Internet-based rumors, a senior official said Thursday.
Liu Zhengrong, a senior official with the State Internet Information Office (SIIO), revealed the figures during a media event in Beijing, saying the move, jointly taken by the Internet administration, along with telecoms and police agencies, has led to an improved online environment.
Liu said Internet-based rumor creation and dissemination is illegal under China's laws.
"Actions of creating and spreading rumors via the Internet disrupt public order and undermine social stability, and will never be tolerated," Liu maintained, saying such behavior will be handled seriously and rumormongers held accountable in accordance with the law.
Noting that China saw surging numbers of online rumors of various types recently, Liu said the rumors of "military vehicles entering Beijing and 'something amiss' happening in Beijing," were fabricated by a number of lawless individuals, and had a particularly disruptive effect on the public.
Six people were detained by police for allegedly fabricating and spreading the afore-mentioned rumors, while some others were also admonished for spreading them, noted Liu, echoing an earlier statement by Beijing police.
Cracking down on Internet-based rumors fulfills expectations of the general public as well as Internet users, and has been met with welcome from people of all circles, Liu added.
Authorities have recognized that halting the spread of illegal and harmful information, including rumors, in form of microblog posts, is a key issue, according to Liu.
"Some microblog users, unaware of the truth, forwarded the rumors just to attract more attention online, thus contributing to the quick spread of these rumors," the official said.
What made China's online environment even complicated was that some overseas Internet users were found to fabricate or spread rumors through microblogging service websites based in China, Liu said.
To solve the problem, Liu said both government agencies and the Internet service providers should play an appropriate role, while Internet users themselves should remain vigilant against rumors and report them to the authorities in a timely manner.
"Concerted efforts should be made to create a social atmosphere in which rumors are boycotted by everyone," Liu said.
Nonetheless, Liu said Chinese authorities will continue to attach importance to both development and supervision of the Internet, which, as a result of China's reform and opening up drive as well as economic and social development, has become a key infrastructure component. He recognizes that it is an important cultural communication platform, and a useful daily tool for the public.
"We are aiming to make the Internet something more useful, trustworthy, and more helpful in terms of promoting China's economic and social development, so as to better protect people's right to know, their participation, expression and their supervision," Liu said. "By doing so, we shall be able to ensure that Internet users enjoy all the benefits of a healthy online world," he added.
China has seen its Internet population continue to grow as rapid urbanization has allowed increasing numbers of people to access the web.
The number of Internet users in China is estimated to have reached 513 million as of the end of 2011, up 55.8 million year-on-year, according to latest figures from the China Internet Network Information Center.