The Shanghai police has detained a man who allegedly fabricated online rumors that a female executive at a state-owned oil company accepted sexual favors as a bribe from a U.S. supplier.
Fu Xueshang, president of Shanghai LabInfo Technologies, had made up the story against oil giant Sinopec because he failed a bid for a Sinopec project at the end of last year, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement on Tuesday, China Daily reported.
Fu had released an online post last year claiming the U.S. company Agilent Technologies bribed the Sinopec official Zhang Qin, with two male prostitutes at an exclusive club in Beijing. He also claimed Agilent had won the contract to provide machinery for a petrochemical plant in Wuhan after they used photos to blackmail Zhang.
"To make it sensational, Fu hired online posters with thousands of yuan to forward the post and make it top news," the ministry added. The post had spread widely online with 110,000 results created on Baidu, and severely damaged Sinopec's reputation and harmed the official and her family.
The police also said Fu had strong IT knowledge and made investigation difficult. He had rented an office in Shanghai, surfed foreign Web sites there, initially released the false information on overseas forums and forwarded it to domestic ones. He also used special software to delete the traces after browsing related Web sites.
In addition, Fu also faced allegations for making up a rumor that a police chief accepted more than 2 billion yuan (US$327 million) in bribes and murdered an entrepreneur.
Fu's arrest comes amid a nationwide clampdown on online rumors. Over the weekend, prominent Chinese venture capitalist Charles Xue Biqun, who is a large investor in Autohome online car website, which is majority owned by Australian telco Telstra, was arrested for patronizing a prostitute after being linked to another individual spreading online rumors. Investigative journalist Liu Hu, also was detained for fabricating and spreading rumors.
Two Weibo users Yang Xiuyu and Qin Zhihui, were allegedly involved in the "black PR" business in China, and detained by the police last week for fabricating rumors and obtaining benefits illegally through their microblogging accounts.
As of August 15, 2013, in the Chinese province of Shanxi, 23 people were arrested and 27 Web sites were shut down during a crackdown on illegal online activity, according to China Daily. The individuals and sites were suspected of releasing false information online, using the Internet for blackmail or engaging in online fraud.
Transparency, greater details urged in online rumors investigation
Amid the campaign rollout against online rumors, experts in China have also urged relevant departments to offer more details of cases being investigated, a separate China Daily report noted.
"The police have attached more importance to fighting online rumors recently, but they should make the information provided more specific," Cheng Manli, a media professor at Peking University, said in the report. When more information is offered, there will be less public doubt, Cheng explained.
Xiao Dongfa, director of the university's Modern Publishing Research Institute, also agreed, noting that by providing more details and updating information promptly, the government's credibility can be improved.
"Police should accurately describe the crimes that the suspect is alleged to have committed, instead of posting vague information," he said, acknowledging it is hard for relevant departments to put into practice.