China's state-supported news agency issued an advisory on Tuesday that Internet providers and police do more to crack down on "toxic rumors" on microblogging sites. Microblogs (think Twitter but not Twitter because it's American) have become very popular in China and are often the site of looser conversation because the authors aren't as nervous the cops are going to bust down the door.
China's microbloggers showed their potency in a string of recent official scandals, particularly the online uproar in the wake of a high-speed bullet train crash in July that killed 40 people. Microbloggers led the charge in challenging rail officials' evasive accounts of the disaster.
"Concocting rumors is itself a social malady, and the spread of rumors across the Internet presents a massive social threat," (the message) said, noting the capacity of blogs and microblogs to spark the "explosive" proliferation of falsehoods.
A Xinhua comment does not amount to a policy directive, but this one and other recent signals suggest tighter censorship, whether formal or informal, is on policy-makers' minds.
"Fundamentally eradicating the soil in which rumors sprout and spread will demand stronger Internet administration from the responsible agencies, raising the intensity of attacks on rumors," said the Chinese-language Xinhua commentary.