The Internet, for all its redeeming qualities, is perhaps the world's greatest rumor mill. But several recent reports suggest that Chinese authorities, stung by rumors surrounding the health of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and the government's role in a high-speed train collision, are trying to change that. On Friday, Sina Weibo sent alerts to its 200 million users dispelling reports on the Twitter-like service that the Chinese Red Cross was profiting from blood sales and that an alleged murderer had been released on bail because of his well-connected father. Sina temporarily suspended the accounts where the rumors originated, created a new channel called "Weibo Refutes Rumors," and distributed an email address for users to report misinformation. While the service hasn't attributed its new policies to government directives, the moves come after a Communist Party official visited Sina's headquarters last Monday and called on Internet companies to block the spread of "fake and misleading information."
A day later, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported that Chinese authorities had shut down 6,600 websites for engaging in "illegal public relations deals" like "deleting online news stories and posts with negative influences or hiring other netizens to spread certain kinds of information or opinions on the Internet." The Wall Street Journal says the crackdown may have been motivated by accusations last year that dairy company Mengniu had spread rumors about its competitors' products causing premature sexual development in children.