Briefing: Popular WeChat public account accused of fake news shuts down

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What happened: Mimeng, an independent media organization accused of falsifying a story in late January, has shut down its flagship WeChat public account. Previously, the account reportedly had 10 million followers. The public account associated with the fake news has also been shut down, while content was scrubbed from a Mimeng WeChat account. On Thursday, in separate Weibo statements, Phoenix News and Bytedance’s news aggregation app Jinri Toutiao said they would close down Mimeng accounts on their platforms. Both referred to the falsified article, as well as Mimeng’s profit-driven clickbait style. Phoenix News also stated it would “resolutely implement related management rules for self-media,” a term used to refer to nontraditional content providers.

Why it matters: The shutdown of Mimeng accounts may mark new scrutiny of “self-media” and independently-generated content. The organization has previously attracted criticism and backlash: in 2017, for instance, the Mimeng article “A Brief History of Prostitution” was deleted from WeChat. However, the public account was allowed to keep posting after a month. After the latest scandal, Mimeng announced a two-month break from WeChat and closed down its Weibo account, apparently not anticipating further measures. The most recent restrictions on the group will most likely be fatal, however. They also hint at official involvement. Phoenix News’ statement claimed that Mimeng threatened “social stability,” while Toutiao encouraged content creators to “promote socialist core values.”