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China censored and manipulated the coronavirus narrative online: report

"Do not use 'incurable,' 'fatal' or similar headlines to avoid causing societal panic," a directive to news websites said, according to the report.

Updated: December 20, 2020 - 3:18pm

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China engaged in coronavirus-related censorship and propaganda efforts online, according to a joint report from ProPublica and the New York Times. The report, released Saturday, was based on "thousands of secret government directives and other documents," the outlets said.

"Do not use 'incurable,' 'fatal' or similar headlines to avoid causing societal panic," regarding the coronavirus, internet censors told news websites, according to the report.

Online commenters were used to pursue the government's aims, the report indicates. 

The report says that news websites were told not to put out push notifications regarding the death of a doctor, Li Wenliang, who had warned concerning a new viral outbreak and later passed away of coronavirus. Social media platforms were instructed to gradually eliminate the doctor's name from trending topics pages, according to the report.

Instructions to news websites and social media platforms reportedly said, "...do not use push notifications, do not post commentary, do not stir up speculation. Safely control the fervor in online discussions, do not create hashtags, gradually remove from trending topics, strictly control harmful information."