For the first time, China has arrested and detained a man for using WeChat to spread false rumors and cause public panic. This information is based on a report published by the state media. Interestingly, the detention happened just a few hours following the imposition of new rules covering instant messaging tools in the country.
The man was reportedly arrested and taken into the government’s custody on Thursday (August 7). He posted a message on the mobile messaging app that at least three people that were allegedly carrying explosives were shot dead by the police just outside a public hospital in Jiangsu, an eastern province.
After a while, the local police looked at and probed the report. They found that it was just a hoax. Thus, they immediately looked for the man and arrested him. The man, in return, confessed that he had intentionally spread the misinformation just so he can gain more attention and in turn bolster his Internet-based business.
Rumor mongers punished
This move is part of a bigger crackdown by the state on people who spread false rumors that cause negative reaction to the public. The same policy also tries to prevent the spread of obscene material across the Internet. It also aims to stem political commentary that the state may find to be very unlikely.
Meanwhile, as of press time, it is not clear what the man would face as sanctions for his misdemeanor. But it is seen as a lesson for all others who are using mobile messaging apps for conveying information.
WeChat is hugely popular in China. In the past months, it was shut down by the state government because several outspoken columnists were found to be using it to criticize the Chinese government. It was later put back to use after the state did the necessary measures to control such occurrences.
The greater regulation on WeChat comes as no surprise. The app currently has up to 400 million active users on a monthly basis. This data was as of March this year. It is also accessible and useful in many other countries, especially those in Asia.