Internet rumors are a global phenomenon. For instance the claims that Barack Obama was not born in America persisted throughout his presidency, or Sandy Hook Truthers who claim the tragedy never occurred and was a concocted government conspiracy to remove guns from citizens. Despite the Great Firewall and the legislation against the spread of rumors there are many false stories on the Internet in China and removing them is a full time job. This paper investigates the discourses surrounding the regulations about the spreading of rumors and argues that the regulations have two main purposes, one to censor information that the government deems sensitive and this justification has been used to imprison activists. The second use of the regulations is to prevent widespread public panic, as was the case in 2011 when there was panic buying of salt thought to give protection from nuclear fall out that was rumored to be heading to China from Fukushima. Panic driven by rumors is potentially destabilizing and the two ways in which this legislation are used is closely tied to Hu Jintao's catch cry of Harmonious Society. The use of the legislation around the spreading of rumors supports the Chinese Communist Party's efforts to maintain control over the circulation of narratives about China and the use of those narratives to curb social unrest and to retain central authority over country.
Kay Hearn, Edith Cowan University, Australia