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For years, media in China were able to use and publish information from the country’s social media platforms. Social media websites were not under the government’s control.

Recently, however, the government took action to reduce the amount of news coming from those sites.

Under new rules, Chinese media must first confirm a story found on social media before reporting it as news.

Until now, the media have often reported information posted on Sina Weibo, a service like Twitter. Sina Weibo has over 200 million users.

A recent search of the Xinhua news agency website showed hundreds of stories with the word Weibo. The official People’s Daily Online even publishes photographs posted by people on Weibo.

Now, a reporter would have to confirm the story with a government official or agency before reporting the information. Under the new rules, some major news websites have been punished for what the government calls “making up” stories. Those sites include Sina, ifeng and 163.com.

Outside observers say this is just a new way to censor information the government finds objectionable.

Fengshi Wu teaches at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. He says the new policy is a way for the government to encourage news organizations to justify the work of the Communist Party.

In the past, users of sites like Weibo posted stories about corruption and poor leadership by government officials. Active users of Weibo published videos of officials accepting illegal payments or paying someone for sex.

Restrictions on the use of social media as a source for news may result in blocking a vital source of information, observers said.

The state-supported China Daily newspaper recently asked for the media’s help in “restoring people’s trust in the party.” It suggested that people may be unhappy with China’s slowing economy.

Kristin Shi-Kupfer is director of research on politics, society and media at the Mercator Institute of China Studies. She says the new rule may be the result of unrest within the Communist Party.

On June 25, Zhu Tiezhi, the deputy editor-in-chief of a Communist Party publication, was found dead. Chinese officials said Zhu Tiezhi was an apparent victim of suicide. He was believed to have been greatly concerned about the growing differences between the party’s reformists and conservatives.

Shi-Kupfer said the death was one of several recent incidents that point to more fundamental disputes within the Communist Party concerning the role of media and propaganda. “Like in many suicide cases of party cadres, personal and political factors are possibly involved at the same time,” she said.

I’m Dan Friedell.

Saibal Dasgupta wrote this story for VOANews.com. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

What do you think of the new rules on social media reporting in China? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

encourage – v. to tell or advise (someone) to do something

censor – v. to examine books, movies, letters, etc., in order to remove things that are considered to be offensive, immoral, harmful to society, etc.

posted – v. to publish, announce or advertise

fundamental adj. of or related to the most important part of something

factor n. something that helps produce or influence a result

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