People’s Daily’s website has called for efforts to “stem the wild growth of self-media” after Chinese media erroneously announced on Thursday that the Nobel prize for literature had gone to a Syrian poet.

According to The Paper, half an hour before the laureate was officially announced at 7pm, many major mainland outlets posted news articles saying that the Nobel Prize in Literature had been awarded to Syrian poet Ali Ahmad Said Esber, known as Adonis. In fact, the prize was awarded to singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.

A screenshot posted by a Weibo user showed news site iFeng citing a tweet posted by a user claiming to be the official Twitter account of Adonis. It said that he had received a phone call from Sweden telling him that he had been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Other outlets that reported the fake news included NetEase, Sohu, and even some TV channels, according to The Paper.

In an article on Friday, The Paper wrote: “We can’t not say it, this time our post on the Nobel prize was very fast – maybe it had something to do with some media outlets racing to delete their posts on Adonis.”

iFeng’s post citing a Twitter account that claimed to be the official account of Adonis. Photo: Screenshot from Weibo user.

On Friday, the People’s Daily site published an editorial with the title “Contain the ‘wild growth’ of self-media according to the law.”

In China, self-media refers to news feeds or blogs created by individuals not belonging to a media organisation, often disseminated through social media such as WeChat or Weibo.

The article began by discussing the Nobel prize reporting debacle. “Behind the reversal of this news is the ecological chaos of new media, especially self-media, and attention should be paid to it.”

Right: Posts from news platforms announcing the awarding of the Nobel Prize in literature to Adonis. Left: posts on WeChat making fun of the mistake. Photo: The Paper.

“Fundamentally, the chaos of self-media results from not following the rules of media development, not following the right track of market competition, and not going forward within the boundaries set by the law,” it said.

The editorial said the solution to the situation is to use the law to govern self-media. The solution will not come from calling for platforms to self-regulate or calling for industry regulation.

Singer Bob Dylan and poet Adonis. Photos: Wikicommons.

In July, China’s top internet regulator banned news outlets from citing social media posts as sources as part of an ongoing crackdown on fake news and rumours.

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.