Sacré bleu! China’s hacks need to go back to school

24 Jul

tour de franceHere’s another snapshot into the insanity of Chinese online censorship and terrible journalism, courtesy of Illuminant, a PR agency based in the People’s Republic.

As the firm points out in this post, a news story broke all over social media in the country that a whopping 1,832 riders never finished this year’s Tour De France cycle-fest.

No, you haven’t been so drip-fed news by western media of British hero Bradley Wiggins’ epic victory as to have missed this massive story – it is in fact complete and utter bollocks.

What happened, according to Illuminant, is that state-run news wire Xinhua accidentally typed that 156 out of 1,988 riders finished the race. In reality, only 198 took part – the extra ‘8’ being nothing more than a simple typo.

All this would have been forgivable but then the People’s Daily – the Communist Party’s mouthpiece and one of the giant’s of the Chinese newspaper industry – jumped on this stat and put out its own story based on the apparent shockingly low number of finishers.

This in turn was duly cut-and-pasted without any fact-checking by the four biggest web portals in China – Sina, QQ, Sohu and Net Ease – which between them are read by more than the total online population of most nations.

So what do you think happened as a result?

An edict from the Party clamping down on poor standards in journalism? New regulations designed to make journalists more accountable and to force them to source any news first hand?

Well, probably none of the above actually because they have already happened. Last year.

Nothing is likely to be done as a result, however, for one very good reason.

Although the aim of the new regulations, which could even end in prison sentences and a career-ending sacking for erring hacks, was ostensibly to improve standards in journalism, it wasn’t really.

It was actually brought in to control the spread of ‘harmful rumours’ online. These rumours, of course, being harmful to no-one but the Party. A cock-up reporting the Tour de France is not exactly going to cause the collapse of communism in China and so will no doubt be left alone.

By contrast, when rumours emerged online that there may have been a coup in central Beijing all hell broke loose – arrests, web sites shut down and comments suspended on some of the biggest social media sites.

The lesson from all this is pretty clear: China’s a great place to be a terrible hack, just stick to covering meaningless sporting events on the other side of the globe.

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One Response to “Sacré bleu! China’s hacks need to go back to school”

  1. Simon @ Illuminant (@illuminantceo) July 24, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    Thanks very much for covering our short report, Death Noodle.

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