A new Chinese government website made with the cooperation of executives from Yahoo, China Telecom, Baidu, and Sohu is setting out to debunk urban legends on the Internet. The site, py.qianlong.com, is an attempt by Chinese authorities to combat rampant rumors on social media platforms.
But it appears the rumors it’s combating are sometimes true. The Chinese-language site, according to Quartz’s Heather Timmons, offers “an incongruous mixture of consumer-friendly information (no, using a cell phone during a thunderstorm does not increase your chance of being electrocuted) and specific denials of wrongdoing, like buying property through ill-gotten gains, by government officials.”
Friend of Fast Company and Chinese internet expert Adam Segal of the Council of Foreign Relations told us by email that the country’s government is not only concerned about viral Internet rumors “that expose corruption or undermine Chinese Communist Party legitimacy in other ways, but that also can cause riots and other disturbances. For example, there was widespread panic buying of salt in the wake of the Fukushima disaster because of online rumors that iodine would protect you and widespread distrust of official reassurances about safety.”
In the meantime, there’s one important question: Can a Chinese version of Snopes, whether sponsored by the government or not, succeed?