Government Shuts Down Wechat Account for Six Days for Misleading Headline

On January 7, 2016, China’s official news agency Xinhua reported that the Xinjiang branch of the Cyber Administration of China shut down a public Wechat (Weixin 微信) account for six days because of what it termed a “malicious headline.”

According to the report, the offending headline read “Major Accident Outside of Urumqi - 22 Dead, 5 Wounded” (乌市南郊出大事了——22死5伤). 

The actual content of the article was “A major traffic accident occurred outside of Urumqi, 22 sheep were killed and 5 sheep were injured” (乌市南郊发生交通事故,致22只羊死亡,5只羊受伤).

According to the government, this discrepancy was a violation of the “Interim Rules on the Development and Administration of Instant Messaging Tools and Public Information Services” (即时通信工具公众信息服务发展管理暂行规定).

Misreporting traffic accident fatalities is a jailable offense in China. For example, according to a report in the state sponsored Southern Metropolis Daily, in August 2013, the Wudangshan public security bureau subjected a Mr. Xue to five days administrative detention because he had published posts with "rumors," claiming seven people had died in a car accident, when in fact only three people had died.

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