China’s new Cyberspace Administration Chief Xu Lin has banned news agencies from using social media content as a source for developing news stories without his administration’s consent.

The move comes just days after Xu Lin took over as head of the Cyberspace Administration.

Even if the new directive looks like an attempt to tighten the communist country’s grip on news sources, the government explained it using practical reasons.

News portals should take responsibility for the content they report

Xu wants news sites to bear full responsibility for the content they report. News sites aren’t forbidden from using social media as a news source, but they first need to verify the information they report with more thoroughness than before.

A tweet or a message on Weibo and WeChat won’t be enough to validate a news article.

“No website is allowed to report public news without specifying the sources, or report news that quotes untrue origins,” a circular sent to Chinese news agencies reads, according to SCMP.

Five major news portals have already been punished

News portals such as Sina.com, Ifeng.com, Caijing.com.cn, Qq.com and 163.com have already been warned and punished for such tactics, the Chinese government also added in its new policy circular. The government didn’t specify the nature of their punishment.

It is not hard to believe that a less reputable news agency could use fake social media updates to create a fake story just for the sake of reads and ad impressions.

The Chinese government’s new decision is a double-edged sword, since news outlets can’t use social media to report on civil unrest without first verifying the source, either through on-the-ground reporters or asking permission from the government.

“The new rules are packaged in a shiny wrapper to justify proper news reporting, but are in fact aimed at citizens and are for controlling their access to real news that will never be accepted otherwise in Beijing,” a Chinese developer who collaborated with Softpedia on past stories told us.

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