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The feature also refuted rumors related to diseases such as HIV, and a myth about parasites in pork that can’t be killed off by boiling or frying.
Chinese authorities have in recent years grappled with how to regulate social-media platforms that serve as popular venues for discussion and debate in a country where authorities keep a tight grip on the flow of information.
In China, hundreds of millions of people use We Chat not only as a communication tool but also as a major source of news and knowledge.
Naturally, the messaging app, called Weixin in China, is also a hotbed for suspicious rumors.
For instance, a query about online rumors that fast-food chain KFC uses abnormal chickens with an excessive number of wings and legs prompted a reply clarifying that the rumor stemmed from manipulated photos and that experts say chickens with more than two wings are hard to keep alive.
KFC filed a lawsuit last year against three Chinese media companies for spreading false information about its products.
A CASS study last year said that We Chat intercepts “rumors” as many as 2.1 million times a day, typically in posts on food and personal safety, disease, personal-health regimes, fraud, finance and parenting techniques.
When a user sends a chat message — a phrase or sentence stating what the rumor is — to the Rumor Filter account, it aims to give an auto reply that clarifies whether that rumor is true.
Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd., the developer of We Chat, says it is trying to help the app’s users verify whether certain rumors they see online are true or false.This week, an official We Chat account called Rumor Filter, operated by Tencent, added a new feature that it says could make it easier for people to check the veracity of social-media information.A survey released this month by an institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences showed that We Chat is now a bigger channel for online rumors than other social networks such as the Weibo microblogging service, in part because people use We Chat more often than any other social apps.Other studies have warned that rumors circulated on We Chat, where people typically communicate with friends and acquaintances rather than strangers, are more difficult to refute than rumors spread on microblogging platforms such as Weibo where users post comments to wider audiences.” — which gets a lengthy reply explaining why a crayfish isn’t an insect.
But because the feature is a simple auto-reply function, most messages that don’t match certain keywords and phrases, Tencent says, either get no reply or a reply saying “there is no relevant information.” China Real Time found that it offered responses mainly about recent myths related to public-health scares.