Chinese authorities crack down on news websites sourcing stories from social media

Media outlets are being warned against using "conjecture and imagination to distort the facts"

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Image: Alexander F. Yuan / AP/Press Association Images

Chinese authorities are moving to crack down on news outlets reporting stories sourced from social media.

The Cyberspace Administration of China has said online media outlets must gain approval before publishing stories originating on popular social networks such as Sina Weibo and WeChat.

In a statement, quoted by the South China Morning Post and the state-run Xinhua news agency, the administration said: “It is forbidden to use hearsay to create news or use conjecture and imagination to distort the facts.

“All websites should bear the key responsibility to further streamline the course of reporting and publishing of news, and set up a sound internal monitoring mechanism among all mobile news portals," it adds.

News outlets were also warned not to publish "public news without specifying the sources".

Reuters reports that the new measures are coming into force over government claims that a number of 'fake news stories' circulated online.

The move comes less than a week after Lu Wei stepped down as the head of the Cyberspace Administration.

The New York Times described Mr Lu as having led "a global push for the country’s growing state surveillance and online censorship".

The administration's former deputy director Xu Lin has taken over from Mr Lu.