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The Guardian: China announces internet censorship to stifle 'rumours' about the country's covid situation

19-1-2023 |

Chinese cyber authorities have announced an internet censorship crackdown to ensure there are no “gloomy sentiments” caused by pandemic “rumours” during the lunar new year festival.

It comes as health forecasting firm Airfinity estimated more than 600,000 people have likely died since zero-Covid restrictions were lifted in December – 10 times more than Chinese authorities have officially declared.

The month-long “Spring Festival online improvement” program will target those spreading what authorities deem to be “rumours” about the spread of Covid and patient experiences.

It specifically cited the investigation and punishment of “online rumours related to the epidemic” and “fabricating patient experiences”, as well as producing or sharing fake virus treatments. The announcement said the work would “prevent misleading the public and causing social panic”.

Online, social media has been awash with personal stories of people contracting Covid, struggling to source medication or healthcare, and losing elderly relatives to the disease.

The personal experiences of many jarred with the official narrative that the outbreak was under control and the response “science led”, prompting unusual levels of online criticism against the government.

China’s censors have appeared to struggle to control critical social media commentary in the wake of the zero Covid policy reversal. The new program shows a renewed effort to stamp out dissent, and ensure China’s online environment reflects the Party’s image and ideals.

“After all this, they will say you have to be happy, it will be politically incorrect if you are not happy,” said one Chinese Twitter user in response.

“It seems that the best way to solve the problem is to ‘cover your mouth’.” said another. “I can’t say anything but praise.”

The administration said it would also “investigate and deal with the deliberate displaying of images of overeating and drinking during the Spring Festival, and promoting extravagant and wasteful information”.

Source: The Guardian