Websites should focus more on their social responsibilities instead of the pursuit of high click rates, a Chinese Internet official said on Friday.
Facts are the lifeline of online news and the stronger a website grows, the greater influence it has, the more responsibility it should assume to ensure the truth and objectiveness in a news event it publishes, said Ren Xianliang, vice director of State Internet Information Office.
Ren made the remarks at a forum attended by major Chinese websites' representatives on prevention of online false reports and promotion of online media's credibility. It follows a recent online rumor about a Chinese woman's trick to blackmail a foreign passer-by trying to offer help.
Online reports went viral after an Internet user posted a picture of a dispute between a middle-aged Chinese woman and foreign young man in Beijing. The reports claimed the woman was attempting to bluff the foreigner into compensation for an injury.
The report ignited public fury because similar cases in China have led to a reluctance to help strangers in trouble for fear of being blackmailed.
However, the news was later proved to be untrue as police found that the man did hit the woman while riding his motorbike, causing minor injuries. Also, the man did not have a driver's license and a relevant working permit in Beijing.
Participants of Friday's forum agreed that news organizations should deeply reflect on the blind enthusiasm in eyebrow-raising events, according to a statement issued after the forum.
An official from a local Internet authority in Beijing criticized that some websites negligently or intentionally ignore some key elements in a news event out of a rush for high click rates and such practices reflect a lack of professional quality and ethics.
Online media should not only focus on releasing news in a timely manner, but should also work to ensure the information is true, objective, balanced and accurate, the statement said.
It urged websites to cling to their professional integrity and pass positive messages to the public.
The statement said a website should verify the credibility of a news item before releasing or reposting it, and should be held responsible for the information it has published.
It also urged news organizations to enhance management of their journalists and editors to improve their professional skills.