WeChat users under scrutiny

WeChat users under scrutiny
Logo for WeChat, a Web messaging app.

CHINA - China's crackdown on online rumors has reached WeChat, with Zhejiang police saying it is illegal to spread rumors on the popular mobile messaging service.

At a news conference on Monday, Ding Renren, head of cybersecurity at the Zhejiang Public Security Department, said WeChat's Moment, a virtual zone where users share texts and pictures with their contacts, is an online public venue.

"Although the target receivers are a specific group, it is still illegal to spread rumors and false information in such public venues without first verifying the information," he said.

WeChat users could be held legally responsible if they cannot tell whether something is false information but still text about it or forward the rumor, he added.

The Zhejiang police statement comes amid a collective crackdown on Internet-based rumors in which dozens of people nationwide have been arrested.

Most recently, Shanghai police detained Fu Xuesheng, president of Shanghai LabInfo Technologies, on suspicion of fabricating rumors involving State-owned oil giant Sinopec and a Shanghai police chief and spreading them in online forums.

Focus is now turning to WeChat, which has about 500 million users worldwide, raising concerns among some users and legal experts.

WeChat's operator, Tencent, will abide by China's laws and regulations, a spokesperson at the company in Shenzhen said on Tuesday.

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