Spreading false information online risks seven year imprisonment in China

With daily active users exceeding hundreds of millions in China, the government has worked to combat fake information and an increasing number of false stories circulating on sites such as Weibo and WeChat.

Popular social media platforms such as Weibo, WeChat, and public online forums are now under supervision following the Chinese government's ruling that the posting and circulating of fake news is a criminal offence.

The latest amendment to Chinese criminal law, effective from November 1, 2015, stipulates that those "intentionally spreading false information on the developments of emergencies such as epidemics or other disasters, and posting related warnings on the internet and social media", which has "severely disturbed social order", will receive jail time of less than three years, detention or surveillance, according to a Sina news report on Sunday.

If such an act causes severe consequences, the fake-information-spreader will face jail time between three to seven years.

The ruling will target the spread of fabricated news stories and telephone fraud cases, some of which were listed as "poverty seeking donations" and "help to find lost child" to become viral.

Sina Weibo operating manager Yin Xuegeng said similar acts were previously convicted under the charges of "illegal operation" or "disturbing public order". Yin said he expects the new amendment is likely to reduce controversies in the future.