China internet cafe
China's communist government keeps a tight control over internet contentReuters

In an attempt to clamp down on fake news and spreading rumours, China's internet regulator has imposed a ban on reporting news gathered from social media. A statement from the Cyberspace Administration of China said online media cannot report any news that relies heavily on social media sites as the primary source without obtaining permission.

"It is forbidden to use hearsay to create news or use conjecture and imagination to distort the facts," Reuters reported the regulator as saying.

"All levels of the cyberspace administration must earnestly fulfil their management responsibility for internet content, strengthen supervision and investigation, severely probe and handle fake and unfactual news."

The announcement comes a week after China's internet gatekeeper chief Lu Wei stepped down and one of his deputies, Xu Lin, took over. Although it was reported that Lu's exit would not lead to a major crackdown on its internet censorship, the regulator has said the new measures are required to stop fake news from circulating in cyber space.

It listed a number of false news stories doing the rounds on the internet, including one about a bus fire.

Over the years, Lu had led one of the toughest crackdowns in the country to curb free speech. The Chinese government too, under President Xi Jingpin, has been constantly exercising widespread controls over cyberspace, and seeks to codify that policy in law.

Earlier in March, China introduced a new rule which prohibited all foreign media from publishing content online in the country without prior permission from the government. Only 100% Chinese companies are allowed to produce content to be published online after obtaining licences. These companies are expected to self-censor their materials before publication. Besides, China's government is known for coming down heavily on the media for reporting criticism against Xi or his governance.

Many popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter remain blocked in the communist country, with the government citing security amid rising global threats like terrorism. The regulatory measures have proved a stumbling block to several businesses like Apple and Microsoft, which see these as a broader trade issue.