BEIJING, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- Six Chinese websites jointly launched a platform on Thursday to refute online rumors, a move that an official has termed Beijing's latest endeavor to clean up the "Internet environment."
The platform is a website that collects statements from Twitter-like services, news portals and China's biggest search engine, Baidu, to refute online rumors and expose the scams of phishing websites.
The platform operates under the instruction of the Beijing Internet Information Office (BIIO) and the Beijing Internet Association, a non-profit social organization.
The popular use of the Internet has expanded Chinese people's channels of expression, but also facilitated the circulation of rumors and false information, said Chen Hua, director of the Internet information service and management department under the BIIO.
"The platform will be a new try by Beijing's websites to eradicate online rumors and raise Internet users' awareness of telling rumors from the truth," he said.
The platform was jointly launched by websites Qianlong, Sogou, Sohu, Netease, Baidu and Sina Weibo, a Chinese Twitter-like microblogging service.
So far, the first phase of the platform has been completed, said Chen.
It has collected about 100,000 brief statements on online rumors and phishing websites and offered Internet users about 30 websites through which they can report online rumors or scams.
Operators of the platform will spend another year finishing the second phase. Once that is complete, more entertaining and interactive programs will be introduced to encourage the public to report online rumors.
WHY RUMORS TRAVEL FAST
Some Internet users create rumors to attract attention, while others do it to blow off some steam. But rumors fabricated on purpose can be dangerous and incite panic, said Min Dahong, a researcher on Internet usage.
Based on Wu Chenguang's observations, rumors travel especially fast in times of emergency such as natural disasters and other mass incidents.
Wu is the news center director of Sohu. In June last year, the web portal's news center launched a program called "Rumor Terminator" and has handled 300 rumors to date.
Soon after downpours hit Beijing on July 21, 2012, Internet users began disseminating photos of severe flooding that had been taken years earlier.
Another example involves rumors about earthquake forecasts. Internet users claim that people had successfully predicted that an earthquake would shake Lushan County, Sichuan Province, as early as five years ago, but these claims weren't made until after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Lushan County on April 20, leaving at least 196 dead.
Such rumors had an extremely harmful influence, Wu Chenguang said, adding that the government's slow pace in releasing information has allowed Internet users to spread their rumors easily.
When explaining why rumors travel fast in China, Min Dahong proposed that it is because rumors touch on issues of common concern.
The Chinese people now care about their surroundings. Rumors travel fast because they cater to public curiosity and concern about environmental protection, food safety and corruption, he said.