People’s Daily official on anti-rumour campaign and online public opinion management

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This article by Zhu Huaxin, the director of the People’s Daily Public Opinion Monitoring Unit, was published in People’s Daily last Friday, 11 September. In this article, Zhu takes stock of the recent crackdown on rumours online, noting that the fact that a number of well-known online celebrities have been targeted signifies the end of an era of government passivity in the face of the online sphere, and a renewed initiative to bring this under control. The recent Judicial Interpretation that provides for stronger criminal sanctions for online rumours one part of this, but according to Zhu, much more work remains: legal rules are necessary for citizen journalists and rights-defence websites, for use of social media by journalists, for online anti-corruption activities and for the interaction between online public opinion and the real world. In Zhu’s words: China’s microblogs aren’t Hyde Park. His conclusions from the online are: that pundit Big Vs are disappearing, and being replaced by more specialist Big Vs; it is necessary to protect the right of the common people to express their opinions; “micro-public good” activities must be protected and the problems in the media marketing industry must be resolved. 

At the same time, Zhu also strongly takes local governments to task for failing to engage in a constructive manner with the legitimate demands of the social public. Exhorting the powers that be to manage and treat the Internet kindly, he argues that it is better to forestall rumours and anxieties by open communication with society and effective provision of public services. He refers to a number of recent incidents where aggrieved petitioners committed bombing and arson attacks after they had spent years trying to have their complaints heard. To this end, he advocates a pragmatic position, aimed at differentiating tactics to account for different social groups, different communication channels and different purposes. In other words, Zhu warns against the excessive use of blunt force on the Internet, when the objective of online harmony and development might be better achieved through more pragmatic and co-operative means.  

Zhu Huaxin: The Online Public Opinion Structure Against the Background of the Attack on Rumours

On 25 August 2013, the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau announced that: the police have arrested a certain Xue (male, 60) who visited prostitutes and a prostitute in Anhui Beili, and placed them under administrative detention according to the law. Mr Xue was in fact the online celebrity Xue Manzi, who has 12 million fans. Since opening a microblog on 8 September 2010, he posted 79 microblogs on average per day, the majority of which were discussions of current affairs, and quite a few of them were critical of the government. CCTV’s “News Broadcast” programme exceptionally used three minutes of time to expose Xue Manzi’s misdeeds. The Weibo Big Vs who “pointed to mountains and rivers, flushed away mud and brought in fresh water with our words, and saw the high and mighty as muck” suddenly walked into the dusk.

Before dawn on 10 September, the Yunnanese online celebrity “Bianmin” was arrested by the police, the reason being that he was suspected of falsely reporting registered capital. “Bianmin” had been very lively in relation to the “hide and seek” incident, the primary school prostitution incident and other such online hot spots. After the “hide and seek” incident occurred in the beginning of 2009, the Yunnan Provincial Committee Propaganda Department organized a survey of netizens, which became the precursor to “online accountability”. The difference with the Beijing Big V was that “Bianmin” rarely indulged in pontificating about ideology, but aimed to inquire about the truth of hot spots and incidents.

The arrest of “Bianmin” signifies the end of an era.

In the past few years, the keywords in the Internet space were “online accountability”, and salvaging “sunken voices”. In order to change the situation that government work online often found itself under a “surrounding gaze”, “government affairs microblogs” came to the fore, striving to respond to “netizens’ concerns”.

Starting from late August this year, keywords in the Internet sphere are written all over: fabricating and disseminating rumours, trying to pick quarrels, exposing and criticising Big Vs, public order punishment and criminal detention. The government changes passiveness into activity, called for the launch of an online “public opinion struggle”, to dare to “uncover the sword”, and to closely grasp the “leadership power, management power and discourse power” in ideological work.

The background of this transformation of hot terms is that, from Internet management to social management, a number of new concepts, ways of thinking and structures are currently being shaped, which will deeply influence the communication and interaction between the public and the government, and the interest games between different social groups. The sudden eruption of public power, and its fierce use, has made quite a few leading cadres feel excited about recovering “lost ground”, and at the same time, has caught unaware the netizens who were used to “spit out comments”, and especially the “opinion leaders” who had over the past few years come to seem themselves as being very good and swept across microblogs “like emperors reviewing memorials”.

Public power “unsheathes the sword”: the boundaries of the system

On 9 September, the “Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate Judicial Interpretation Concerning Some Questions of Applicable Law in Handling the Use of Information Networks to Commit Defamation and Other Such Criminal Cases” was published, which was immediately enthusiastically endorsed by grass-roots cadres.

The Judicial Interpretation’s interpretation of online criminal blackmail was not contested. What netizens paid attention to was that the Judicial Interpretation quantified the constitutive element of criminal defamation, being “where the same defaming information’s real hit rate or browsing rate reaches 5000 or more; or where the same defaming information’s real reposting rate reached 500 or more.” Criminal online provocation triggered even more heated debate among netizens. The Judicial Interpretation said: “Where false information is fabricated or where it is clearly known that false information has been fabricated, and disseminated on information networks, or other persons are organized or instructed to disseminate it on information networks, to stir up trouble, and this results in grave upsets of public order, this constitutes the crime of provocation”

The Internet is not an area outside of the law, netizens are not people beyond civilization, and they should be subject to constraints of law, public order and good custom. False information aimed at government affairs is reported quite often. But false information is not limited to current affairs and news, the use of Snowball Net, stock bars and other interactive communities to obtain profit from releasing capital market information has become a chronic illness, companies going on the market can only post clear announcements to declare that their record is clean, but that is often already too late, and losses are disastrous. Quite a few traded companies, funds and securities traders have claimed that it is also necessary to “arrest the Qin Huohuos on the capital market”. The China Securities Regulatory Commission already reported in 2012 about a number of cases where false online information upset capital markets. Article 78 of the “Securities Law” prohibits “State personnel, media employees and relevant persons to fabricate and disseminate false information and upset securities markets”, but there has been a lack of attack strength for a long time, the publication of the Two Supremes’ Judicial Interpretation undoubtedly brings timely help.

Administrative management and legal punishment of online rumours still contains a few prominent issues that must be standardized:

First, there is the legality of “independent investigative journalists”. Following the arrival of Internet mass microphone era”, netizens can publish information about the scene of sudden incidents, express their interests and appeals, and thereby become so-called “citizen reporters” and “citizen journalists”. If this is only what the person in question sees and hears or their appeals, as long as it seeks truth from facts, it should be tolerated. The problem is that in the past few years, so-called “independent investigative reporters” have emerged whose business is “explosive material” and rights defence on behalf of others. The General Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film and Television has strictly managed journalist cards for newsgathering and editing qualifications, so they don’t have journalist cards, but they haunt the scene of all kinds of sudden incidents, they lack the constraint of strict newsgathering, editing and manuscript submission workflows in traditional media, they lack mechanisms of media prestige being constrained by distribution rates or viewing rates, and also are not subject to the jurisdiction of press and propaganda management structures, but they also bring in improper commercial interests. There is no lack of rows of “independent investigative reporters” who have conned their way in by extortion and blackmail.

Second, there is the legality of popular rights-defence websites and public opinion supervision websites. The “Internet News Information Service Management Regulations” of 2005 permit news work units to establish news websites that have the same newsgathering and editing powers as the original media; commercial portal websites can only reprint news information disseminated by central news work units or provincial, autonomous region or municipal news work units, they may not publish news information that they have gathered and edited themselves. Here, news information refers to “current affairs-type news information, including reporting and comments concerning political, economic, military, foreign affairs and other such social and public matters, as well as reporting and comments concerning sudden social incidents.”

Where the people establish rights defence websites or public opinion supervision websites on their own initiatives, although they have ICP permits, they do not have current affairs newsgathering and editing qualifications, furthermore, hey don’t even have the qualifications to reprint current affairs-type news information that commercial portal websites have. But they are committed to gathering and propagating current affairs-type negative news and hearsay on a large scale. Rights defence website perhaps truly want to help grass-roots common people to defend their rights, but they may also organise blackmail or swindle. The “15 March” incident of last year was reported by media, a young lad from outside ran two rights defence websites in Beijing, and hired staff to collect negative news and hearsay concerning governments and enterprises, put it up online, and subsequently, called those governmental departments and enterprises to blackmail them, demanding fees to erase the posts, and he actually bought property to setup his business in Beijing within less than two years.

Third, there are journalists uncovering material on online “self-media”. When journalists use the conveniences of their positions to write up inside news, can they uncover these materials on BBSs, microblogs, blogs and other self-media without permission from the medium? Even though their uncovering these materials is a completely individual act, but in light of their professional fame, it is difficult to avoid that the media they serve are the “endorsement” of the uncovered material. The People’s Daily, CCTV and other such news media have formulated provisions such as journalist self-media use rules, all journalists and anchors with V-certified media identities must file for approval with their work unit, and they must be responsible to their media for their posts.

Fourth, there is the legal definition of online anti-corruption. Some netizens suspect that the “Two Supremes'” Judicial Interpretation aims to contain the upsurge of online anti-corruption that emerged after the 18th Party Congress. The Supreme People’s Court news spokesperson clearly said that: where the broad netizens inform on and expose other persons’ acts violating laws or disciplines through information networks, relevant departments shall be responsible for verification and timely publish the verification results. Even if a part of the informed or exposed content is wrong, as long as there is no wilful concocting of facts to defame others, or they are not clearly known to be facts concocted to harm another persons’ reputation, and these are disseminated online, criminal liability for criminal defamation shall not be pursued.

Online anti-corruption fits in with the strong conviction of the Party and the Government to oppose corruption and advocate clean government. But whenever leading cadres are shown to smoke a packet of expensive cigarettes or wear an expensive watch, they are immediately determined to be corrupt officials, in the face of overwhelming accusations by millions of netizens with Big Vs with hundreds of thousands of fans on their side, they are unable to prove their innocence, this can also not be said to be a healthy phenomenon. Online anti-corruption is easily used for commercial blackmail and ferocious battles in officialdom, last year, the “Chengdu Family Planning Commission Office Director” microblog exposed corruption itself, and afterwards, it was ascertained that this was an act of jealousy among official colleagues.

Online anti-corruption urgently requires boundaries to the rights of honest and upright officials, netizens and online. Because officials control the power to allocate social resources, it is necessary to transfer the right to know to the public and the right to supervise to the media, but it must also be made clear that some powers should be respected and protected by other persons. Where is the boundary between netizens exposing untrue information and malicious defamation? Even if there is no subjective malice, exposing inaccurate materials brings injury to officials and their family members, so which legal, economic and moral liability should the exposers should bear? From the point of view of the “Tort Liability Law” that took effect on 1 July 2010, microblogs, forums, social media websites and other self-media platforms have joint liability for netizens’ infringement of other persons’ right to reputation.

Fifth is the offline boundary of online public opinion. In the past few years, some “skinhead” netizens are no longer satisfied with “spitting out” online, they believe in “repeated shouting is not as good as standing in the streets”, threatening social stability.

The strength of online accountability can only correspond to the entire country’s social management system. Even with the support of new communication technology, the Internet cannot become an “enclave” from the country’s social, cultural and political domain. China’s 591 million netizens, and especially intellectual netizens who regularly speak out on public affairs, are the beneficiaries of the country’s informatization strategy. But the Chinese people who “surged” up first should not have the wrong impression about national conditions and the system, and mistakenly believe that China’s microblogs are England’s Hyde Park.

The changes on the Internet since August, has ruthlessly made the high rise of those netizens who sailed their boats across the teeth of the storm, come crashing down to earth. Where once we believed we had built a Babylonian tower reaching up to the heavens, we suddenly turned around and discovered that we are still arduously climbing the slopes of modernization.

The direction of China’s reform and opening up has been established as early as the 3rd Plenum of the 11th Party Congress of 1978, but moving reform forward requires perseverance, firmness and enterprise. In 1992, Comrade Deng Xiaoping pointed out that China at that time was only in the primary stage of Socialism, and this stage required passing through the hard work of generations, ten generations or even dozens of generations. The generations, ten generations or even dozens of generations, naturally include netizens.

Online turmoil, a trilogy of governance

China’s online public opinion sphere was originally created through intense expressions and protesting voices, it was only the content of the expressions that caused people to like it sometimes, and fear it at other times.

The first current affairs forum set up inland was the People’s Daily Online Strong Nation Forum, which was established on 9 May 1999, the day after NATO savagely bombed China’s embassy in Yugoslavia, at that time, it was called the “BBS Forum to Strongly Protest NATO’s Savage Act”, it changed to its current name on 19 June.

More often, the online public opinion sphere “spat out” or even “cursed” about issues concerning the domestic common people’s livelihoods and individual rights guarantees, through venting critical thoughts and emotions with humour and abuse, glorious aspirations were placed on individual prospects and the prospects of the country, or there was wishful thinking.

The barrier between the official and popular “two public opinion spheres” is becoming more prominent every day. Government shoulders the heavy burden of the real national circumstances and the existing structure of interests, and the netizens who demand immediate change can always occupy the moral high ground. The common people cannot understand the complete complexity of public administration by the government, and easily sees the government as being an institutional obstacle to their beautiful lives, and consequently, negative rumours or even malicious guesses that are not beneficial to the government can always spread rapidly online and attract a sympathetic response. Then, a number of government departments may easily come to see the common people who bring appeals as a potential adversary in stability preservation, and they will tend to control and suppress netizens’ expressions of opinion instead of listening attentively and settling matters. This has even more aggravated the confrontational emotions between government and netizens.

On the issue of sudden incidents and sensitive topics, and in relation to netizens’ doubts and even some provocative statements, governments must first and foremost do news publishing well, and forcefully handle government affairs openness. Second, it is necessary that press and propaganda departments patiently do persuasion and interpretation work well. Only under circumstances where these two points do not have effect, and in relation to some unlawful words and deeds that harm real social order, is it necessary to adopt forcible measures. If the former two work points are skirted, and policemen are directly ordered to rush in front of propaganda departments, the police may be suspected of exceeding their station, and press and propaganda departments may be seen as acting as a lazy government.

In June 2009, a “stuck cobalt-60 source” accident happened in Qi County, Henan, and the local government adopted the policy of the three noes: no reporting of the situation, no acceptance of interviews, and no permission of reporting. After they concealed it for more than a month, a rumour madly circulated: a radiation source was about to explode, and once it would explode, all males in the entire country would lose their reproductive ability. On 17 July, masses from the entire county successively drove their cars, tractors and tricycles to flee to neighbouring counties, on the basis of the emergence of a “groundless fear”. Afterwards, the local government announced that “the arrest of five rumourmongers concerning the Qi County cobalt-60 incident”, one of them was a netizen who had been arrested in the past for reposting false information.

On this day when Qi County became a deserted city, Internet management department cadres suggested that the People’s Daily write a comment, to criticize the grass-roots government for nit having been able to earnestly implement the “Government Information Openness Regulations”. The People’s Daily “People’s News Commentary” warned: “it seems as if rumours are the main cause triggering large-scale social panics, but their background is in fact the aphasia of local information dissemination and the lack of credibility this caused.”

In June 2011, what was suspected to be ticks appeared in Changping District, Beijing, but this did not trigger social panic, because the local government frankly and sincerely faced the public’s questions, it confirmed the facts about ticks biting pets from the first moment, and at the same time cleared up that case of illness due to bites of humans had emerged, but it also earned the citizens to pay attention to preventing ticks, and earnestly promised it would continue to supervise ticks. Such declarations and measures were a complete case of fearing what the population fears, thinking what the population thinks, and the citizens had no reasons to distrust the sincerity and governing ability of the government.

On 18 September of this year, Premier Li Keqiang chaired a meeting of the State Council Standing Council, which research and deployed the further strengthening of government information openness work, demanded a vigorous response and clearing up of misunderstandings and doubts with relation to major public sentiments and social hot topics, and to pay attention to merging the popular masses’ expectations into government policymaking and work; as well as to ensure transparency of economic and social government policies and transparency of the use of power, to let the people be able to see and hear matters, and enable them to supervise.

The Secretary of the Central Discipline Inspection Committee Wang Qishan stressed when researching the construction of the website of the Central Discipline Inspection Committee Supervision Department: we must vigorously and actively respond to and guide public opinion, important public sentiments must be discovered early, reported early and dealt with early. Understand and collect social sentiments and public feelings, unblock supervision channels, and give rein to a good social supervision function. Chief Secretary of the Central Discipline Inspection Committee Cui Shaopeng revealed in an online interview: when conditions are ripe, this website will also prepare opening an official microblog, Wechat and other new media applications.

The basic path to connect the official and popular “two public opinion spheres” is to have government information openness on relevant issues of public interest, and reduce information asymmetry between officials and the people. The “People’s Commentary” “What Will End the Myth of ‘Online Rumours'” published by People’s Daily used the rumour formula of the communications scholar Chorus: rumours = importance of an event x ambiguity of an event / ability for public criticism, this indicates how large the energy of a rumour is, depends on the transparency of real information, and depends on the level of public judgment.

The Shanghai Jiaotong University professor Zhang Guoliang further expanded the formula of rumours to be: the speed of gossip=the importance of the event x the ambiguity of the situation x the advancedness of technology / authoritative government credibility / citizens’ power of judgment. Professor Zhang paid attention to two other factors: the more developed media technology is, the stronger the communication power of rumours (or unverified gossip) becomes; the lower government credibility is, the more rumours have a market.

In preventing rumours, it is impossible to close new technological mediums (perhaps there are some officials who have such expectations deeply in their hearts), what must be done to forcefully repair and reactivate government credibility.

The public opinion ecology: Internet “vegetation”

When observing and evaluating the progress and effects of the last month of concentrated attack on online rumours, the following conclusions can be made:

First, current affairs-type Big Vs have collectively withdrawn, Big Vs with a specialist background have risen.

Outside of, art and sports stars, among microblog current affairs-type Big Vs, there are many writers on various subjects, and many who speak out across subject boundaries. For example, Xue Manzi, an expert in venture capital, posted about broad content, very little was originally created, most of it consisted of reposts. This sort of Big V may certainly be concerned for human affairs, for example, Xue Manzi sponsored aid to a girl suffering from leukaemia, Luo Ruoqing, but the majority of his views on public affairs directly conveyed feelings, or consisted of irresponsible talk. Now, in a period of social transition, many complex issues and contradictions come together, there is a need for specialist judgment, rational consideration, and balancing of interest. We cannot be as given to fighting as “Fang Hei” and “Han Hei” in the “Fang-Han Battle”.

Current affairs-type Big Vs have withdrawn en masse, from one angle, that does not mean that “public opinion froth” has not been forcibly pushed out, even though the methods were a bit rough. A small number of intellectual netizens who wallowed in romantic emotions, had restless spirits and tended to extremes also needed to consider how they are able to promote smooth transformation in society, otherwise, being swept into online public opinion and government policymaking is very dangerous. At present, the famous netizen and Chinese Academy of Social Science scholar Yu Jianrong took the initiative to run off to Guizhou to become the assistant of a township head, to experience the difficulties of grass-roots government. This sort of action benefits intellectuals’ taking the pulse of national conditions more accurately, and by the time they discuss political affairs on microblogs again, they will bring a simplicity and tenacity from the soil.

In the future, Big Vs with a specialist background will rise up. For example, @Zhan Jiang, @Du Junfei, @Zhang Zhi’an, @Wuda Shenyang in the news and communications area; @Yi Peng in the economic sphere; politico-legal accounts such as @Guangdong Zhengfa, @Yunnan Provincial People’s Procuratorate and @Enshi Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court; young research experts such as @Sun Yunxiao; @Dan Zhiqiang and @Zhang Zhaoyong in the area of cultural geography and ethnology, etc., will gain the rational identification of netizens with their firm specialist background and academic analysis, and they will not only “attract eyeballs” like Big Vs before. Public power is suggested to provide more tolerance to “expert discussion on politics”. The intellectual policy baseline established at the 3rd Plenum of the 11th Party Congress must be maintained. After the “Cultural Revolution”, Deng Xiaoping put forward “respecting knowledge, respecting talent”; Hu Yaobang proposed “full confidence, giving a free hand in use”. To do modernization, we must respect intellectuals and cherish intellectuals, we cannot stand opposed to them. This is one of our basic national policies.

Second, it is urgently necessary to tolerate and protect grass roots netizens’ expression of opinions.

I remember that At the end of the Eighties of the last century, the aesthetic scholar Li Zehou sighed: if we wipe away this generation of scholars of ours, before a decade, a new generation of scholars will rise up, the one thing China does not lack, is talent. Even the Big Vs who have borne the brunt of this dealing with the Internet have completely disappeared, and their influence on the online public opinion ecology is extremely limited as well. But grass roots netizens are much more valuable for the public opinion ecology and the overall ecology of society.

In a period of social transition, the legal system is insufficiently complete, traditional media pay more attention to public opinion guidance, and their public opinion guidance function may weaken, some grass-roots masses use the Internet to call for help and cry out in circumstances where they lack other ways for rights and remedies. For example, in 2009, the Henan peasant Zhang Haichao’s tuberculosis entered the terminal stage, but because his original  work unit refused to provide certification, he was unable to obtain a diagnosis result from a statutory organ, and was forced to “open his chest to test his lungs” alive. After this matter was reported in the media, a surging tide of online public opinion arose. In the end, Zhang Haichao obtained compensation and resolved his baseline insurance issues. The NPC Standing Committee revised the “Occupational Illness Prevention and Care Law” This extreme case indicates that the Internet is a real channel for grass-roots common people to “call to Heaven for their rights”, this not only requires a high level of attention, but also a spirit of reverence.

In the “trans-provincial arrest” case of the netizen Wang Shuai in Lingbao, Henan, the People’s Daily Net Public Opinion Monitor Unit and the “Strong Nation” forum jointly organized four interviews, which facilitated the released of Wang Shuai. One netizen wrote in a post: “A few local officials believe themselves to be beyond the reach of the authorities, they think of themselves as the most important person under heaven, they do as they please and they desire, they tyrannize the common people, and these local officials must especially be reminded to firmly keep in mind: China’s common people only need to lightly touch a computer mouse, and they are together with the General Secretary. This sort of heroic perception clearly shows feelings and remains unforgettable.

After undergoing many years of sustained high-speed economic growth, the general picture of Chinese politics is stable, under this presupposition, it must also be considered that all kinds of social contradictions are accumulating and piling up, they are gradually moving towards an ignition point. The Internet is the air vent hole and safety valve for China’s society. Why fear that the calls of grass-roots people are extreme calls, set them free, they benefit higher-level governments and the entire society to discover grass roots problems, timely resolve them, avoid the expansion of small matters and the explosion of large matters.

Some bombing cases occurred over the last few years, in which the parties had earlier used the Internet to express their appeals. Before the triple bombing of the district government, the district court and the district Procuratorate occurred in Fuzhou, Jiangxi, the evictee Chen Minqi had opened four microblog accounts in one go to air his grievances; in the Xiamen BRT arson case, Chen Shuizong had used microblogs to record the hardships of changing his birth year when arranging for social security, he had gone to the local police station 22 times but returned without results; in regard to his alleged being beaten cripple by the Dongguan public order team, the Shandong peasant Ji Zhongxing had lamented in his last blog post before going to bomb Beijing Airport Terminal 3 in his wheelchair: “I call upon heaven, heaven does not respond; I call upon the earth, the earth does not respond.”

The criminal acts of these three people must be severely condemned, the still-alive Ji Zhongxing will be punished by law, but the entire society must also seriously reflect on why they embarked on a path of indiscriminate violence and crime. After Qian Mingqi’s bombing case, Phoenix Satellite Television anchor Lüqiu Luwei opened her own microblog, and astonishingly discovered that in the days before, he had reposted one of her own posts, “after becoming aware of this, my spine went cold, among those thousands of comments, we cannot know whether there was a voice that came from this person who would pass away in this manner, and prepared for death, he had not been listened to for a lifetime”, until those three loud bangs.

What is even more important than Big Vs sinking or swimming, is protecting the grass-roots common people’s online right of expression, and relieving social pressure. The public opinion environment in a period of social transition is intricate and complex, the masses are extremely sensitive about issues such as education, employment, healthcare, housing, ecology, the environment, food security, etc., and it dissatisfaction is easily triggered by these issues of real interests, and rapid social change engenders irrational mentalities. With regard to harmful social emotions, we must vigorously conduct persuasion, dispel doubts and misunderstandings, resolve contradictions, rationalize emotions, and balance feelings. If governments would be a bit more sincere and humble with regards to public opinion, our system would be a lot more flexible and  strong.

Third, encourage and protect “micro-public good” netizens.

The journalist Deng Fei shifted from investigative reporting about “uncovering the black” to “micro-public good”, including the Weibo anti-human trafficking campaign, free lunches and insurance for serious illness. Deng Fei’s transformation brought great inspiration to young netizens. From criticizing society and criticizing the government, online “angry youth”-type cynicism and misanthropy transformed into constructive attitudes to improve society, and resolve all sorts of basic livelihood issues in cooperation with the government. This has been very important for the moulding of the new generation’s national character and the optimization of social psychology.

Fourth, resolve and support the social media marketing industry.

The online pusher “Li’erchaisi” (Yang Xiuyu) who was arrested this time engaged in social media marketing. He boosted the fame of the online celebrity “Tianxian Meimei” from the Aba Qiang prefecture, which fell under harmless online operations; his plan to “wipe out Wanglaoji” after the Wenchuan earthquake was also classical marketing. Afterwards, he pandered to online “hard-core tastes”, he packaged “Gan Lulu”, and concocted false news, bringing him onto an evil path. But we cannot because of this kill off with one blow interactive marketing that is based on online communities, including character marketing, story marketing and topical marketing.

Marketing companies have registered large amounts of sock puppets and repost posts in association with Big Vs, this is similar to celebrity advertising, it can rapidly increase the fame of a product and stimulate the product’s sales, as long as this does not involve false advertising, even if people don’t like it, it is not unlawful.

Social media marketing on Internet platforms is a part of the creative and marketing industries, the fourth industries, the view of a home village society should not be used to tarnish its reputation. If the “crime of illegal business” in the “Two Supremes'” Interpretation would be defined as being organized and for the purpose of profit, and the element of “disordering market order” would be overlooked, it would easily bring accidental injury to the burgeoning social media marketing sector.

The netizen “Onions Aren’t Cadres” sighed: “people who are still petitioning believe in the government, and people who are still online believe in the law.” Public power must kindly manage the Internet, and must treat the Internet kindly as well. Although dynamic netizens cannot represent the will of the whole body of citizens, because they are good at expression, they have become a kind of wind vane for social situations and the people’s will.

Treating the Internet kindly means cherishing society’s “vegetation”. In a wasteland without vegetation, people’s hearts desertify easily, and the smell of gunpowder can be smelled in the air. Tolerating the different interests and appeals of different social groups on the Internet means invigorating the blood of China’s society and enlivening the organism of the nation by concentrating a consensus among plural noises. The scholar Xiao Shu analysed: in the microblog age, if every common person conducts the broadest attention and the broadest participation in public affairs that they can, and proposes a civilized civil life through self-governance and cooperation, this benefits enhancing the public rationality of the whole society, the formation of social consensus, and the formation of a firm social chassis.

A slogan on a village wall that circulated online has told the secrets in the hearts of a number of officials: “Don’t fabricate rumours, don’t spread rumours, the government’s explanation is the only basis”. This sort of extremely conceited and autocratic attitude runs counter to the “Socialist consultative democracy” advocated in the 18th Party Congress: “The Socialist cooperative democracy is an important form of our country’s people’s democracy. Realize the organic integration of government management and grass-roots democracy. In town, country and community governance, grass-roots public affairs and public interest undertakings, implement mass self-management, self-service, self-education and self-supervision. Take broad and orderly participation, promotion of information openness, strengthening of official matters consultation and strengthening power supervision as focus points.” The Internet is a platform for orderly participation and consultative democracy.

Ideology: tongues and fists

In this campaign to attack online rumours, all localities governments have shown their colours clearly, dared to “unsheathe the sword”, and effectively resisted malicious rumour mongering and extreme discourse online, but some errors have occurred in grass-roots law enforcement: netizens wrongly reported the number of people killed in a traffic accident, and were arrested by the police for fabricating rumours. Here, it is the public security bureau in Dangshan County, Anhui, who just apologised and released people, there, it is the public security bureau in Wudangshan, Hubei, who release arrested people again.

A female netizen from Qinghe, Hubei posted: “I heard that a murder happened in Lou Village, who knows the truth?” She was then placed under administrative detention for five days.

When netizens asked for the publishing of water monitoring reports, the Hydropower and Water Bureau in Jianshi County, Hubei responded: “a complete and truthful report” will be made in the near future, if some people wilfully distort facts, “online ‘Qin Huohuos’ will be the most vivid lesson”.

The biggest dispute happened in Zhangjiachuan, Gansu, after the unnatural death of a male, a sixteen year-old secondary school student called the inside story of the death case online, his post was reposted more than 500 times, and he was put under criminal detention, being suspected of the crime of provocation.

Although the police released him afterwards and said that they arrested him because he was suspected of inciting a demonstration, media reports stated that the demonstration was initiated voluntarily by the relatives of the deceased person, and this was unrelated to the secondary school student. Under public opinion pressure, the police withdrew the case and released the person. With regard to this first case of criminal detention of a “rumourmonger” for “being reposted more than 500 times”, the central focus news website Guangming Net stated: can it be achieved that law enforcement does not neglect things, not frames people, not wilfully expands the scope of applicable law, and does not use the law as a tool for stability maintenance? The Shanxi public security office’s vice-head Chen Li, who has more than 14 million followers, stated sincerely: “the child was still young, the path of a human life is long, every case is different, there should be moderation between lenience and severity”.

The Yunnan provincial People’s Procuratorate official microblog suggested: between attacking online rumours and protecting online freedom, there is a balance point that should be grasped well, we must not fall from one extreme into the other”.

There is a crucial point here, which is that public power must correctly present its own position, and deal well with the relationship between being rulers and being supervised. In attacking online rumours, do not wrong the innocent or connive with the bad, do not have private interests, don’t be blind, guarantee citizens’ proper expressions of opinions and public opinion supervision, guard against public opinion surveillance technology flowing to grass-roots governments, where some local officials of low quality use it to suppress dissidents, and this can only hide contradictions and increase social pressure.

It is hoped that netizens posts do not incite revenge against officials or the wealthy or opposition to the system, it is also hoped that Internet governance will not aggravate suspicion and confrontation between officials and the people, but that popular feelings become warm again because the people’s confidence is won.

After operationalized forceful rectification, it is also necessary to establish long-term Internet governance mechanisms, to bring the campaign of attacking online rumours onto the daily track of the legal system and social construction.

– Concerning online noise, draw a clear distinction between the three levels of entertainment (aesthetic interests), morality and the law, deal with manners in a categorized manner, manage matters meticulously. For example, you may like or dislike “Little Times” and “Empresses in the Palace”, but the government should not use public power to ban them, and the public should also see them as being suppressed by the government because of three successive critical articles in the “People’s Daily”. In the Eighties of last century, CCP Politburo member Hu Qiaomu did not like misty poems, and went to visit the misty poet Shu Ting on Gulangyu in Xiamen, the two people ended up in a strong argument about academic issues, in loud voices, and it even “alarmed the local public security chief on security duty”, the exchange ended inconclusive. But afterwards, Shu Ting said, “the old man has a high attitude, he has not sought to bring trouble onto the backs of writers because of the sparks of collision, like some cultural officials”.

– Concerning questions of ideology, ideological methods should be used more often to resolve them. With regards to the issue of the masses’ ideological understanding, use more talk and fewer fists. When the CCP had not yet seized political power, Yun Daiying ran “China Youth”, Tao Fen ran the “Life” magazine and Zhou Enlai came to lead the “New China Daily”, they united the youth strata, the urban strata and the democratic parties. After the CCP became the governing party, this special skill of propaganda and agitation could not be sheathed as a sword. When coming across sudden incidents and sensitive topics, it cannot be that only the move of blocking online articles is left. Today’s “pens” are computer mice, we must retake the “computer mouse discourse power”, advance towards microblogs, BBSs and Renren, arouse hundreds and thousands of netizens, convince people by reasoning and moving people with emotions.

– Simultaneously develop public force and online community self-governance, Internet governance must have both strength and grace. At present, the use of legal coercive measures resolves the historical debt of many years of Internet management in one stroke. But as the Internet is a community organized by netizens themselves, netizens’ self-discipline cannot be abandoned, upgrading media self-control also requires online “opinion leaders” to be forced to have a sense of social responsibility. The State Internet Information Office director Lu Wei agreed on “Lu’s Seven Rules” with a few dozen online celebrities, which were the legal and regulatory baseline, the Socialist system baseline, the national interest baseline, the baseline of citizens’ lawful rights and interests, the social and public order baseline, the moral custom baseline and the truthful information baseline, which reflected a sort of flexible governance thinking about the Internet.

– “Cleaning up the Net” is not realistic and not scientific, the Internet is a place that tends back towards the truth of the matter through the free exchange of information and the collision of opinions. More crucial than “cleaning up the Net” is that traditional media must be good gatekeepers of online information and emotions. Traditional media cannot become the printing plates of online posts. In comparison with the situation where everyone can post microblogs and stray 140-character bullets fly everywhere, traditional media are, in fact, much more suited to deeply excavate the truth of affairs, make accurate judgments, and impose strict sector self-discipline whenever mistakes harm their professional reputation. In the face of the ever growing pressure of Internet popular will, can propaganda media be developed in a stable manner, can the specialist spirit of news be made to become a filter for helter-skelter information on the Internet and stabilizing ballast for citizens’ mentalities, and can stable, open, inclusive and rational multi-dimensional public opinion spaces be built? Apart from treating the Internet kindly and managing it kindly, using the Internet kindly is a first-level government skill and state that must be raised a notch.

Learn to have a dialogue and make friends with different groups, pay attention to “differentiated” communication. At present, quite a few different social groups have emerged, from those who have returned from overseas, or who have returned but are looking for jobs, to the ant people and the Beijing floaters, and even to scattered households and “old women”, they have broad common interests, and all have their own different interests they pursue. We must not use news copy to cover all under heaven when we discuss propaganda. Formulate a tailor-made accented agenda for different social groups, launch interaction with them and realistically raise the focus of news and propaganda, and the effectiveness of public opinion guidance.

– Build online interaction through-trains for officials and the people, to resolve problems one-on-one. The People’s Daily Net local leader message board is a very good online platform innovation, netizens can log onto the message board, and directly leave messages for Party and government number-one leaders at the three levels of county, city and province to express their appeal, and this at the same time also avoids the hubbub of public opinion platforms such as microblogs. From its inception in 2006 up to now, 51 provincial secretaries or governors, 400 city and district-level number one leaders and more than 850 county secretaries have responded to netizens’ comments.

Government affairs microblogs also give increasing regard to their private letter function, and so, how many cases of breaking the law out of despair, such as Qian Minqi, Chen Shuizong and Ji Zhongxing may be avoided?

– Some senior media people plan imagine that Central news work units and provincial, autonomous region and municipal directly-subordinate work units might be able to stop providing news information to commercial portal websites, and publish them on central and local focus news websites. If commercial portal website want to use [news], they must link back to the focus news website, and thereby weaken the media properties of commercial portal websites. Might microblogs and other self-media platforms be able to cancel repost and comment calculation functions, to reduce the entertainment nature of self-media? These measures may cool down the high fever of online public opinion, and emasculate the commercial “navy”.

– Press and propaganda in relation to mainstream ideology must not only fight positional warfare, it must also learn to fight a guerrilla war. Learning from some social media’s marketing methods, the use of forums, BBSs, post bars, microblogs, public WeChat accounts, QQ groups, WeChat friend circles, etc., discussion topics are to be set up ingeniously, do conduct information dissemination and viewpoint guidance.

– Can the Internet “National Team” forge the superiority of a “joint navy”? Party and government organs have already more than 200.000 official microblogs, there are also about 100 Party newspapers and official media at all levels who have legal personality microblogs, but they all do things their own way and interact extremely little. Will they be able to explore some sort of linked communication mechanisms, to realize a focus on topics, topic sharing and differentiation of angles with regards to focus and difficult issues in policy and propaganda in a specific period, where all display their abilities, and conduct differentiated and integrated public opinion guidance?

In November of this year, the 3rd Plenum of the 18th Party Congress will completely plan economic and social structural reform, and forge “Chinese economy upgrade plan” for the next decade. Kindly dealing, kindly managing and kindly using this “biggest variable” of the Internet, forming a public opinion sphere with vitality and rationality, a system that is elastic and has legal standards, is the basic guarantee for deepening reform. If rulers listen to all sides, they will be enlightened, and the sea will receive a hundred rivers; where rulers control riots and restrain evil, but moderate their court affairs, governing a large country is like frying a small fish.

The author is the Chief Secretary of the People’s Daily Online Public Opinion Monitoring Unit

祝华新:打击谣言背景下的网络舆论新格局
2013年8月25日,北京市公安局宣布:警方在安慧北里一小区将嫖娼的薛某(男、60岁)和卖淫女抓获,依法行政拘留。薛某即是有1200万粉丝的网络名人薛蛮子。从2010年9月8日开通微博以来,他平均每天发博79条,大多是时事类议论,其中不少是对政府的批评。央视《新闻联播》节目破例用3分钟时间,揭露薛蛮子的劣迹。前些年“指点江山,激扬文字,粪土万户侯”的微博大V们,骤然走入黄昏。

9月10日凌晨,云南知名网友“边民”被警方刑拘,理由是涉嫌虚报注册资本。“边民”在躲猫猫、小学生卖淫案等网络热点事件中表现活跃。而2009年初“躲猫猫”事件发生后,云南省委宣传部组织网友调查,掀开了“网络问政”的序幕。与京城大V不同,“边民”绝少意识形态的高谈阔论,热衷于质询热点事件真相。

“边民”被拘,标志着一个时代的结束。

前些年,互联网空间的关键词是“网络问政”,打捞“沉没的声音”。为改变政府工作在网上经常处于被“围观”批评的局面,“政务微博”异军突起,努力回应“网民关切”。

从今年8月下旬起,互联网空间的关键词写满了:造谣传谣,寻衅滋事,揭批大V,治安处罚,刑事拘留。政府化被动为主动,号召开展网上“舆论斗争”,敢于“亮剑”,牢牢掌握意识形态工作的“领导权、管理权、话语权”。

这些热词转换的背后,是从互联网治理到社会管理,一些新的理念、思路和格局正在形成,将深刻地影响民众和政府之间的沟通互动和不同社会群体之间的利益博弈。公权突然发力,用力之猛,让不少领导干部有收复“失地”的兴奋,同时也让习惯于“吐槽”的网民,特别是近几年自我感觉良好、刷微博“像皇帝批阅奏章”的“意见领袖”措手不及。

公权“亮剑”:体制的边界

9月9日,《最高人民法院、最高人民检察院关于办理利用信息网络实施诽谤等刑事案件适用法律若干问题的司法解释》出台,立刻得到基层干部的热烈拥护。

司法解释对网络敲诈勒索罪的解释没有争议。网民关注的,是司法解释对诽谤罪的构成进行了量化,即“同一诽谤信息实际被点击、浏览次数达到5000次以上;同一诽谤信息实际被转发次数达到500次以上”。网上寻衅滋事罪,更引发网民激辩。司法解释说:“编造虚假信息或者明知是编造的虚假信息,在信息网络上散布,或者组织、指使人员在信息网络上散布、起哄闹事,造成公共秩序严重混乱的,构成寻衅滋事罪。”

互联网不是法外之地,网民不是化外之民,理应受到法律和公序良俗的约束。针对政务的虚假信息,已经报道不少。但虚假信息不限于时政新闻,借助雪球网、股吧等互动社区,资本市场放空消息获利已成痼疾,上市公司只能发澄清公告自证清白,但往往为时已晚,损失惨重。不少上市公司、基金、券商呼吁,也要“抓资本市场的秦火火”。中国证监会2012年曾经通报过一些网络虚假信息扰乱资本市场的案例。《证券法》第七十八条“禁止国家工作人员、传播媒介从业人员和有关人员编造、传播虚假信息,扰乱证券市场”,但长期缺乏打击力度,两高司法解释的出台,无疑雪中送炭。

对网络谣言的行政管理和法律处罚,还有几个突出问题需要规范:

一是“独立调查记者”的合法性。随着互联网“大众麦克风时代”的到来,网民可以发表突发事件现场的见闻,表达利益诉求,从而成为所谓“公民报道者”“公民记者”。如果只是当事人的见闻和诉求,只要实事求是,应予包容。问题是近年来,出现了以“爆料”和代人维权为职业的所谓“独立调查记者”。新闻出版广电总局对作为新闻采访资质的记者证有严格管理,而他们没有记者证,却出没在各种突发事件现场,缺少传统媒体严格的采访发稿流程的约束,缺少媒体信誉受发行量、收视率制约的机制,也不受新闻宣传管理体制的辖制,掺杂了不正当的商业利益。不乏敲诈勒索之徒混迹于“独立调查记者”行列。

二是民间维权网站、舆论监督网站的合法性。2005年的《互联网新闻信息服务管理规定》,允许新闻单位设立的新闻网站具有与原有媒体一样的新闻采编权;商业门户网站只能转载中央新闻单位或者省、自治区、直辖市直属新闻单位发布的新闻信息,不得登载自行采编的新闻信息。这里的“新闻信息”,是指“时政类新闻信息,包括有关政治、经济、军事、外交等社会公共事务的报道、评论,以及有关社会突发事件的报道、评论”。

民间自行创立的维权网站、舆论监督网站,虽然有ICP许可证,却没有时政新闻采编资质,而且连商业门户网站转载时政类新闻信息的资质也不具备。但它们热衷于搜罗和大肆宣扬时政类负面新闻和传闻。维权网站可能真的想帮基层百姓维权,但也可能是有组织的敲诈勒索,招摇撞骗。去年“3·15”期间,曾有媒体报道,一个外地的小伙子在北京办了两家维权网站,雇佣员工搜集有关政府和企业的负面新闻和传闻,在网上挂出,然后给这些政府部门和企业打电话要挟,索取删帖费,不到两年时间竟然在北京购房置业。

三是记者在网络“自媒体”爆料。记者利用职务之便采写的内幕新闻,未经本媒体允许,能否自行在BBS、微博客、博客等自媒体爆料?即使他的爆料完全属于个人行为,但其职业知名度,难免会让他所服务的媒体为爆料“背书”。人民日报、中央电视台等新闻媒体都制定了记者自媒体使用守则一类规定,所有加V认证媒体身份的记者、主持人,均需经本单位备案同意,其发言需对本媒体负责。

四是网络反腐的法律边界。有网友怀疑,“两高”的司法解释是想遏制十八大后出现的网络反腐热潮。最高法院新闻发言人明确表示:广大网民通过信息网络检举、揭发他人违法违纪行为的,有关部门应当负责任地核实,及时公布调查结果。即使检举、揭发的部分内容失实,只要不是故意捏造事实诽谤他人的,或者不属明知是捏造的损害他人名誉的事实而在信息网络上散布的,就不应以诽谤罪追究刑事责任。

网络反腐与党和政府反腐倡廉的坚强决心是吻合的。但领导干部一旦被曝光抽了一包天价烟,戴了一块名贵手表,立刻被认定为贪官,面对几亿网民和百万以上粉丝的大V一边倒的指控,百口莫辩,却也不能说是健康现象。网络反腐容易为商业敲诈和官场恶斗所利用,去年“成都计生委办公室主任”微博自曝贪腐,事后查明就是官场同僚的嫉妒所为。

网络反腐急需厘清官员、网民和网站各自的权利边界。官员由于掌握了社会资源配置权,因此需要让渡公众以知情权和媒体的监督权,但也要明确一些权利是他人应该尊重和保护的。网友失实爆料与恶意诽谤的界限在哪里?即使主观无恶意,失实爆料给官员及其家属带来伤害,爆料者应承担哪些法律、经济和道义的责任?从2010年7月1日实施的《侵权责任法》来看,微博、论坛、社交网站等自媒体平台方,对网友侵犯他人名誉权负有连带责任。

五是网络舆论的网下边界。前几年,某些“光头党”网友,已不满足于网上“吐槽”,信奉“千呼万唤,不如街头一站”,威胁社会稳定。

网络问政的力度,只能与整个国家的社会管理体制相适应。即使有新传播技术作支撑,互联网也不可能成为一个国家社会文化政治版图的“飞地”。中国的5.91亿网民,特别是经常就公共事务发声的知识分子网友,是国家信息化战略的幸运儿。但先“潮”起来的中国人不可产生对国情和体制的错觉,把中国的微博误认为英国的海德公园。

8月份以来互联网的变化,把那些长年在舆论风口浪尖上弄潮的网友高高举起,狠狠地摔在地面上。曾经以为我们已经修建了巴比伦的通天塔,蓦然回首却发现,我们还在现代化的山坳上艰难地爬坡。

中国改革开放的方向,早在1978年的十一届三中全会上已经奠定,但改革的推进需要锲而不舍的坚毅和担当。邓小平同志在1992年就指出,中国目前只是处在社会主义初级阶段,而这一阶段就要经过几代人、十几代人甚至几十代人的努力。这里的几代人、十几代人甚至几十代人,当然也包括网民。

网络乱象,治理三部曲

中国的网络舆论场,原本是在激烈的表达和抗议声中登场的,只是其表达的内容,让人有时欢喜有时忧。

内地开设最早的时政论坛,是人民网的强国论坛,创办于1999年5月9日,北约野蛮轰炸中国驻南斯拉夫使馆的第二天,当时叫作“强烈抗议北约暴行BBS论坛”,6月19日更改为现名。

更多的时候,网络舆论场是针对国内老百姓的民生、个人权益保障问题的“吐槽”,甚至“骂娘”,在嬉笑怒骂的批判性思维和情绪宣泄中,寄托着对个人前途和国家前途的美好愿景,或一厢情愿。

官方和民间“两个舆论场”的隔阂,日益凸显。政府背负着现实国情和既有利益格局的沉重负担,而要求立即改变的网民却总是能占据道义制高点。老百姓不理解政府公共治理的全部复杂性,容易把政府视为美好生活的制度性阻碍,因而网上不利于政府的负面传闻乃至于恶意猜测总能迅速扩散,引起共鸣。而一些政府部门则容易把有诉求的老百姓视为维稳的潜在对手,对网民的意见表达倾向于管控打压而不是倾听化解。这就更加激化了政府和网民之间的对峙情绪。

在众多突发事件和敏感议题上,对于网民的疑问,甚至某些挑衅性的言论,政府首先需要做好新闻发布,力行政务公开。其次需要新闻宣传部门做好耐心的说服解释工作。在此两招无效的情况下,对于某些危害现实社会秩序的违法言行,才需要采取强力措施。如果绕开前两项工作,直接让警察冲到宣传部门前边,警方可能涉嫌越位,新闻宣传部门则可能属于惰政行为。

2009年6月,河南杞县发生过一起钴60放射源的“卡源”事故,当地政府采取三不政策:不通报情况,不接受采访,不允许报道。隐瞒了一个多月后,一个谣言疯传:放射源将爆炸,一旦爆炸,全县男人将丧失生育能力。7月17日这一天,全县群众纷纷开着汽车、拖拉机、三轮车,逃亡周边县市,上演了一出现代版的“杞人忧天”。事后,地方政府宣布“抓获杞县钴60事件5名造谣者”,其中一名曾经转帖虚假消息的网友被拘留。

在杞县几成空城的这一天,互联网管理部门的同志建议人民日报写评论,批评基层政府未能认真落实《政府信息公开条例》。人民日报的“人民时评”警告道:“看似谣言是引发大规模社会恐慌的主要诱因,但其背后隐含的,却是当地信息发布的失语和由此引起的公信力缺失。”

2011年6月,北京昌平区出现疑似蜱虫,却没有引发社会恐慌,因为地方政府开诚布公地面对公众质疑,第一时间确认了蜱虫咬伤宠物的事实,同时澄清并未出现咬人病例,但提醒市民注意防范蜱虫,并郑重承诺会持续监测蜱虫。这样的表态和措施,完全是急市民之所急,想市民之所想,市民没有理由怀疑政府的诚意和治理能力。

今年9月18日,李克强总理主持召开国务院常务会议,研究部署进一步加强政府信息公开工作,要求对重要舆情和社会热点问题,积极回应、解疑释惑,并注意把人民群众的期盼融入政府决策和工作之中;使政府经济社会政策透明、权力运行透明,让群众看得到、听得懂、能监督。

中纪委书记王岐山在调研中央纪委监察部网站建设时强调:要积极主动应对和引导舆论,重要舆情要早发现、早报告、早处置。了解、收集社情民意,畅通监督渠道,发挥好社会监督作用。中纪委秘书长崔少鹏在在线访谈中透露:条件成熟时,这个网站还准备开通官方微博、微信等新媒体的应用。

打通官方和民间“两个舆论场”,根本之道是在有关公共利益的问题上,政府信息公开,减少官民之间的信息不对称。人民日报发表的“人民时评”《靠什么终结“网络大谣”的神话》,引用传播学者克罗斯的谣言公式:谣言=事件重要性×事件模糊性÷公众批判能力,表明谣言的能量有多大,既取决于真实信息的透明度,也取决于受众判断水平。

上海交大教授张国良把谣言公式进一步扩充为:流言速率=事件重要性×状况模糊性×技术先进性÷权威公信力÷公民判断力。张教授注意到另外两个因素:媒介技术越发达,谣言(或未经证实的流言)的传播力就越强;政府的公信力越低,谣言越有市场。

制止谣言,不可能关闭新技术媒介(可能有些官员内心深处的确有这样的期待),需要做的是大力修复和提振政府公信力。

舆论生态:互联网“植被”

观察评估近一个月来集中打击网络谣言的进展和效果,可以得出这样几个结论:

一是时政类大V将集体退场,专业背景的中V崛起。

除文艺体育类明星,微博客时政类大V中,杂家居多,越界发言的居多。像薛蛮子,风险投资专家,帖文内容广泛,甚少原创,以转发为主。这类大V可能不失人文关怀,比如薛蛮子参与发起了对白血病女孩鲁若晴的救助,但对公共事务的看法更多是直抒胸臆,或信口开河。而社会转型期很多复杂问题和矛盾纠结,需要专业判断,理性考量,利益均衡。不能像“方韩大战”中的“方黑”“韩黑”那样好勇斗狠。

时政类大V作为一个群体退场,从一个角度看,未尝不是强行挤掉“舆论泡沫”,虽然手法有些粗糙。少数沉湎于浪漫情怀、躁动而偏激的知识分子网友,也需要思考如何能够推动社会实现平滑转型,否则,裹挟网络民意和政府决策,是很危险的。日前,知名网友、中国社会科学院学者于建嵘主动奔赴贵州担任乡长助理,体验基层治理的苦衷。这类行动有助于知识分子更为准确地把脉国情,到时再上微博议政,会带来泥土的朴实和坚韧。

今后,有专业背景的中V将崛起。像新闻传播学领域里的@展江、@杜骏飞、@张志安、@武大沈阳;经济学领域的@易鹏;政法类账户的@广东政法、@云南省人民检察院、@恩施州中级人民法院;青少年研究专家类的@孙云晓;人文地理和民族学领域的@单之蔷、@蒋兆勇,等等,将以扎实的专业背景和学理分析,赢得网民的理性认同,而不是像先前的大V一样单单“吸引眼球”。建议公权力对于“专家论政”给予更多包容。守住党的十一届三中全会路线所奠定的知识分子政策底线。“文革”后,邓小平提出“尊重知识,尊重人才”;胡耀邦倡导“充分信任,放手使用”。要搞现代化,必须尊重知识分子,爱护知识分子,而不是站在其对立面。这也是我们的一项基本国策啊。

二是亟须包容和保护草根网友的意见表达。

记得上世纪80年代末,美学家李泽厚曾感慨:如果抹掉我们这一代学者,不出10年,新一代学者将起来,中国唯独不缺乏的就是人才。在这次互联网整治中首当其冲的大V,即使完全消失,对网络舆论生态的影响也是极为有限的。但草根网友对于舆论生态和整个社会生态来说,更有价值。

社会转型期,法制不够健全,传统媒体更重视舆论导向,而舆论监督功能弱化,一些基层民众在缺乏其他权利救济通道的情况下,借助互联网呼救和呐喊。像2009年河南农民工张海超的尘肺病到了晚期,但因原劳动单位拒绝出具证明,始终无法拿到法定机构的诊断结果,被迫活体“开胸验肺”。此事经媒体报道后,掀起网络舆论狂潮。最后,张海超获赔偿,解决了低保。全国人大常委会修改了《职业病防治法》。这个极端案例提示,互联网是草根老百姓“吁天权”的实现通道,不仅需要高度重视,而且应存一分敬畏之心。

在2009年河南灵宝“跨省抓捕”网友王帅案中,人民网舆情监测室和“强国论坛”一起组织过4次访谈,促成王帅获释。一位网友在跟帖中写道:“个别地方官吏自以为天高皇帝远,老子天下第一,随心所欲,为所欲为,欺压草民,特别要提醒这些地方官吏牢牢记住:中国老百姓只要鼠标轻点,就跟总书记在一起了。”那种豪迈的感觉溢于言表,至今难忘。

经过多年的经济持续高速增长,中国政治大局稳定,在此前提下也要看到,各种社会矛盾在累积和叠加,渐渐逼近引爆点。互联网是中国社会的出气孔和安全阀。草根网民的呼声,哪怕是偏激的诉求,释放出来,也有利于上级政府和全社会发现基层的问题,及时解决,避免小事拖大,大事拖炸。

近几年发生的几起爆炸案,当事人都曾经借助互联网表达诉求。江西抚州针对区政府、区法院、区检察院的三场爆炸发生前,拆迁户钱明奇曾经一口气开通4个微博账号喊冤;厦门BRT纵火案,陈水总之前也曾经用微博记录改动1岁年龄办社保的艰辛,跑了22趟派出所无功而返;山东农民冀中星为所谓东莞治安队殴打致残问题,在坐轮椅到北京T3航站楼搞爆炸之前,在最后一篇博客中悲鸣:“我叫天,天不应;叫地,地无声。”

此三人的暴力犯罪行为必须严正谴责,活着的冀中星将受到法律的惩处,但全社会也需要严肃反思他们为什么走上玉石俱焚的暴力犯罪之路。在钱明奇爆炸案后,凤凰卫视主持人闾丘露薇点开自己的微博,赫然发现就在几天前他曾转过自己的帖子,“感觉后脊发凉,在那几千条评论中,我们不会知道有一个声音是来自如此决绝、预备死亡的他,他一辈子不被听见”,直到那三声巨响。

比关切大V浮沉更重要的,是保护草根老百姓的网络表达权,释放社会压力。社会转型期的舆情环境错综复杂,民众对教育、就业、医疗、住房、生态环境、食品安全等问题十分敏感,容易由现实利益问题引发不满,因社会急剧变革而产生非理性心态。对于社会不良情绪,需要积极进行疏导,释疑解惑,化解矛盾,理顺情绪,平衡心理。政府对民意多一分诚恳和谦卑,我们的体制就多一点弹性和张力。

三是鼓励和保护“微公益”网友。

记者邓飞从“揭黑”的调查报道,转型做“微公益”,微博打拐,免费午餐、大病医保。邓飞的转型对年轻网民有重要启迪。就是从批判社会、批评政府,网络“愤青”般的愤世嫉俗,转而以建设性的心态改良社会,与政府合作解决各种基本的民生问题。这对新生代国民性格的塑造,社会心理的优化,有重要意义。

四是理解和扶持社会化媒体营销产业。

这次被查处的网络推手“立二拆四”(杨秀宇),从事的是社会化媒体营销。他捧红过阿坝州羌寨的网络红人“天仙妹妹”,属于无害网络操作;汶川地震后“封杀王老吉”的策划,还属于营销经典。后来迎合网络“重口味”,包装“干露露”,捏造虚假新闻,走上邪路。但我们不能因此把借助网络社区的互动营销,包括人物营销、故事营销、话题营销,一棍子打死。

营销公司注册大量马甲,联络大V转发帖文,与名人广告一样,能快速提升产品的知名度,促进产品的销售,只要不涉及虚假广告,即使不招人待见,也并不违法。

互联网平台上的社会化媒体营销,属于创意营销产业、第四产业,不宜用乡土社会的眼光污名化。如果只是以有组织和以营利为目的界定“两高”司法解释中的“非法经营罪”,而忽略其“扰乱市场秩序”的性质,就容易误伤新兴的社会化媒体营销业。

网友“葱头不是干部”感慨:“还在上访的人是相信政府的,还在上网的人是相信法律的。”公权力要善管互联网,也要善待互联网。虽然活跃网民并不能代表全体国民的意志,但因为擅长表达,而成为社情民意的某种风向标。

善待互联网,就是爱护社会的“植被”。没有植被的荒原,人心容易沙化,空气中能闻到火药味。在互联网上包容不同社会群体的不同利益诉求,在多元杂音中凝聚共识,就是为中国社会活血化瘀,为民族肌体固本培元。学者笑蜀分析:微博时代,每一个普通人,都能对公共事务进行力所能及的最大关注和最大参与,通过自治与合作,倡导有品质的公民生活,有助于增进整个社会的公共理性,形成社会共识,形成坚实的社会底盘。

网上流传的一幅乡村土墙上的标语,道出了部分官员内心的隐秘:“不信谣,不传谣,政府的解释是惟一依据。”这种惟我独尊的心态,与中共十八大报告提倡的“社会主义协商民主”是背道而驰的:“社会主义协商民主是我国人民民主的重要形式。实现政府管理和基层民主有机结合。在城乡社区治理、基层公共事务和公益事业中实行群众自我管理、自我服务、自我教育、自我监督。以扩大有序参与、推进信息公开、加强议事协商、强化权力监督为重点。”互联网就是有序参与、协商民主的平台。

意识形态:舌头和拳头

在这次打击网络谣言的行动中,各地政府旗帜鲜明,敢于“亮剑”,有效地遏制了互联网上的恶意谣言和极端言论,但基层执法也出现了某些偏差:网友把交通事故死亡人数报错,被警方以造谣为由拘留。这边安徽砀山县公安局刚刚道歉放人,那边湖北武当山公安局却再次出警抓人。

河北清河县女网友发帖:“听说娄庄发生命案了,有谁知道真相吗?”即被行政拘留5日。

网友请求公布水质检测报告,湖北建始县水利水产局网上强势回复:近期将有“全面真实的报道”,若有人故意歪曲事实,“网络上的‘秦火火’将是最生动的教训”。

最大的争议发生在甘肃张家川,在一男子非正常死亡后,一名16岁的初中生上网质疑死亡案有内情,帖文转载500次以上,以涉嫌寻衅滋事罪被刑拘。

虽然警方后来解释说,抓人是因为涉嫌煽动游行,但媒体报道称游行是死者家属自愿发动,与初中生无关。在舆论的压力下,警方撤案放人。对于这起“转发超过500次”而刑事拘留“造谣者”的第一案,中央重点新闻网站光明网发声:执法能否做到不玩忽、不构陷、不随意扩大适用法条的外延、不利用法律作为维稳工具? 1400万粉丝的陕西省公安厅副厅长陈里恳切陈词:“孩子尚年幼,人生路还长,个案非孤案,宽严当有度。”

云南省人民检察院的官方微博建议:在打击网络谣言与保护网络自由之间,应该掌握好一个平衡点,不要从一个极端陷入另一个极端。

这里有个要害问题,就是公权要摆正自己的位置,处理好作为治理者与被监督者的关系。打击网络谣言,不枉不纵,不私不盲,保障公民正当的意见表达和舆论监督,谨防舆论监控技术流入基层政府,被有些素质不高的地方官员用来打压异己,那样只会遮蔽矛盾,增加社会压力。

希望网民帖文不要煽动仇官仇富反体制,也希望互联网治理不要加剧官民猜忌对峙,而是取信于民让人心回暖。

在运动式的强力整顿后,还需要建立互联网治理的长效机制,把打击网络谣言的行动纳入法制和社会建设的日常轨道:

——对于网上的杂音,分清娱乐(审美趣味)、道德和法律3个层面,分类处置,精细化管理。例如,你可以喜欢或不喜欢《小时代》和《甄嬛传》,但政府既不宜用公权来取缔,观众也不必因为《人民日报》连发3篇批评文章就视为政治打压。上世纪80年代的中央政治局委员胡乔木不喜欢朦胧诗,曾到厦门鼓浪屿登门拜访朦胧诗人舒婷,两人在学术问题上发生了一些争执,声音很高,甚至“惊动了担任警卫的当地公安局长”,交谈无果而终。但舒婷事后说,“老人姿态很高,并没有因为发生冲撞的火花,而像有的文化官员那样,找作家创作上的麻烦。”

——对意识形态问题,多用意识形态的方法来解决。对于群众的思想认识问题,多用舌头少用拳头。在中共尚未夺取政权的时候,恽代英办《中国青年》,韬奋办《生活》周刊,周恩来领导《新华日报》,团结青年阶层、市民阶层和民主党派。成为执政党后,宣传鼓动这个看家本领不能刀枪入库。遇到突发事件和敏感议题,不能只剩下封堵网络帖文这一招。今天的“笔杆子”就是鼠标,我们要夺回“鼠标话语权”,前进到微博客、BBS和人人网,去唤起网民千百万,以理服人,以情感人。

——公权强制和网络社区自治并举,互联网治理需要刚柔并济。当前采取法律强制,一举解决互联网管理多年的历史欠账。但互联网作为网民自组织社区,离不开网民自律,提升媒介素养,还需要网上“意见领袖”增强社会责任感。国家互联网信息办公室主任鲁炜与十几位网络名人达成的“鲁七条”,即法律法规底线、社会主义制度底线、国家利益底线、公民合法权益底线、社会公共秩序底线、道德风尚底线和信息真实性底线,体现了对互联网的一种柔性治理思路。

——“净网”是不现实也是不科学的,互联网本是通过信息的自由流动和意见对冲,动态还原事实真相。比“净网”更关键的,是传统媒体做好网络信息和情绪的把关人。传统媒体不可成为网络帖文的印刷版。与人人皆可发微博、140字流弹满天飞的局面相比,传统媒体其实更适合深入挖掘事件真相,作出精准判断,对一旦出错损害职业声誉有严格的行业自律。面临互联网越来越大的民意压力,能否稳步放开传统媒体,让新闻专业精神成为互联网纷乱信息的过滤器、国民心态的压舱石,构建稳定、开放、包容、理性的多维公共舆论空间?善待、善管互联网之外,善用互联网,是一级政府更上层楼的功力和境界。

——学会跟不同群体对话交朋友,注意“分众”传播。当前出现了不同的社会群体,从海归、海待到蚁族、北漂,甚至是散户、“大妈”,有广泛的共同利益,也各有不同的利益诉求。不要一讲宣传就用新闻通稿包打天下。为不同社会群体量身定制小切口议程,与他们展开互动,切实提高新闻宣传的针对性和舆论引导的有效性。

——搭建官民网络互动直通车,一对一解决问题。人民网地方领导留言板就是一个很好的网络平台创新,网民可以登陆留言板,直接给省市县三级党政一把手留言,表达诉求,同时又避免了微博客那样的公共意见平台的炒作。自2006年开通迄今,已经有51位省委书记或省长、400位地市级一把手、850多位县委书记回复网友留言。

政务微博也日益重视私信功能,这样能减少多少钱明奇、陈水总和冀中星的铤而走险?

——有资深媒体人设想,中央新闻单位和省、自治区、直辖市直属新闻单位,能否停止向商业门户网站提供新闻信息,而自行刊登在中央和地方重点新闻网站上。商业门户网站如采用,必须链接回重点新闻网站,从而削弱商业门户网站的媒体属性。微博客等自媒体平台能否取消转发和评论计数功能,减少自媒体的娱乐性?这些措施可为网络舆论的高烧发酵降温,为商业“水军”去势。

——主流意识形态的新闻宣传,不仅要会打阵地战,还要学会打游击战。借鉴社会化媒体营销的某些手法,利用论坛/BBS、帖吧、微博客、微信公共账号、QQ群、微信朋友圈等,巧妙设置议题,进行信息发布和观点引导。

——互联网上的“国家队”,能否打造“联合舰队”优势?党政机关已有约20万家政务微博,还有约100家各级党报和官方媒体的法人微博,但各自为政,极少互动。能否探索某种联播机制,就一个时期内政策宣传的重点和难点问题,实现话题聚焦、题材分享和角度差异化,各显其能,进行有分有合的舆论引导?

今年11月,十八届三中全会将全面规划经济和社会体制改革,打造未来十年的“中国经济升级版”。善待、善管和善用互联网这个“最大变量”,形成一个有活力、有理性的舆论场,一个有弹性、有法度的体制,是深化改革的基本保障。为政者兼听则明,海纳百川;治理者镇暴抑邪,调和鼎鼐,治大国若烹小鲜。■

作者为人民网舆情监测室秘书长

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