Monday, November 26, 2012

Sina Weibo Fact Checking In Action - Murders and Disappearances

Ju Che's Post
 On November 22, 2012, Sina Weibo user "Ju Che" (巨扯) posted the following:
Li Xiang, the reporter who broke the gutter oil story, was killed. Now Jiang Weisuo, the man who took on the milk industry to expose melamine, is murdered. Immediately following that are reports that Li Yuanlong, the reporter of the five homeless kids who froze to death, has now been secretly  detained. The public servants of this dynasty are not taking care of the issues raised by the people, but instead are taking care of the people who raise the issues.
曾曝光地沟油的记者李翔被杀了, 曾曝光三聚氰胺的乳业打假人士蒋卫锁如今遇害了,当下报道毕节五名流浪儿童被冻死的记者李元龙如今被秘密逮捕了——我朝公仆们不是解决人民提出的问题,而是先解决提出问题的人民。
Sina administrators placed the following notice at the top the post: "This content is not factual information, and has already been handled. Details >>" (此内容为不实消息,已处理。 详情>>).

That notice included a link labeled "Details" which pointed to a page showing the Sina Weibo user "Quanzhou Sui Sui Nian" (泉州碎碎念) had made a complaint against "Ju Che" and posted the following:
Quanzhou's Report on Ju Che
The "Reporter Li Xiang Case" was already broken in September 2011, and police determined that the case had nothing to do with gutter oil, see this detailed information: The reported person's words and deeds constitute the "publication of false information."
The "" link pointed to a Sina Weibo post from December 2011 which read:
Yesterday users published Weibos saying "Luoyang TV reporter Li Xiang who investigated gutter oil stabbed 10 times." Following an investigation, this case was already broken back in September, with the police investigation determining that the case had nothing to do with reporting on gutter oil, and that it was a case of robbery-murder. Li Xiang's father also said that his son had never reported on the topic of gutter oil. Related report:
The "" link pointed to a story on the state-sponsored website entitled: "The Case of the Murdered Luoyang Journalist: Family Confirm It had Nothing to Do With Gutter Oil Reporting." (洛阳记者被害案:家属证实与地沟油报道无关)

Sina Weibo administrators put a red seal on Quanzhou Sui Sui Nian's post labeling it "The Winner." (胜诉)

Putting aside for the moment the question of whether or not Ju Che's post actually claimed Li Xiang's murder had anything to do with gutter oil, Ju Che may have been relying on a September 20, 2011 report from the Communist Party-sponsored People's Daily entitled "'Gutter Oil' Reporter Killed." That report stated:

Police are refusing to rule out the possibility that a journalist stabbed to death on Monday was murdered, possibly due to a recent "gutter oil" scandal.
. . . .
Li's laptop was missing and police say early investigations suggest it was a robbery homicide. However, as he was stabbed so many times, detectives are keeping an open mind to other motives. A reward of 20,000 yuan ($3,000) is being offered for information about the incident.  
Media across Henan province, as well as many netizens, have speculated that Li was killed after posting a micro blog on Sept 15 about a suspected underground factory producing illegally recycled kitchen oil, commonly referred to as gutter oil. 
One is also left to wonder whether, given the absence of any indication from Sina's administrators to the contrary, the rest of Ju Che's post should be assumed to be "factual information."