Report confirms blog's power in fighting graft

Updated: 2012-12-31 03:45

By XIE YU in Shanghai (China Daily)

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Micro blogs, like the social networking site Sina Weibo, have improved authority's efficiency in handling anti-corruption cases, but also pose challenges in distinguishing true from false, according to a recently released report by Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Public Opinion Research Lab.

Of the 24 widespread micro blog reports this year, nine have been confirmed as frauds, the report said.

"The micro blog plays a major role in fighting corruption nowadays, but posts online need to be carefully sifted to find what is reliable information," the report said.

As more netizens become familiar with and participate in fighting corruption, more messages spread each day that await authorities' attention, said Xie Yungeng, an expert in public opinion and new media at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

"A regulation should be established on what kind of reports discipline authorities should respond to and set time limits for their response," he said.

"The new way of fighting corruption is testing the wisdom and ability of disciplinary bodies," said Zhu Lijia, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of Governance.

Weibo has broadened the channels for departments to gather information, but as more people post and repost messages, the work load in determining what is useful and true information becomes huge, he said.

They must explore and find ways to handle the information. Meanwhile, authorities must establish regulations to discourage malicious falsehood and prevent it from being used as a weapon for some officials to attack others, Zhu said.

Some netizens do not think rationally and tend to follow others. It is very easy for rumors to get spread in cyberspace, observers said.

"Many messages are just hearsay. After getting the message, we must start an investigation, which sometimes takes time and man hours," said Zhao Anjin, director of the publicity department under the Yunnan Provincial People's Procuratorate, in an earlier interview.

Some experts have called on the legislature to set up regulations to punish maliciously false reports online, but other experts worry this can discourage citizens' passion to fight corruption.

China's discipline watchdogs have been taking online anti-corruption efforts seriously.

A number of officials have been caught up in a sweeping "cyber anti-corruption" drive that has gathered steam since the Party's 18th National Congress in November.

The Shanghai Jiao Tong University research found micro blog reports have improved discipline watchdogs' efficiency in handling cases.

The Internet showed its teeth as early as 2009, when Zhou Jiugeng, a former real estate management official in East China's Nanjing, was sentenced to 11 years in jail for taking bribes. The investigation had been spurred by online photos showing him smoking expensive cigarettes.

It took half a year from the micro blog being posted to his being sentenced for corruption.

This year, the average time between a micro blog accusation and the government announcing action it had taken is 28 days, the report said.

Wang Hongyi contributed to this story.

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