China’s ‘social media queen’ Mimeng closes WeChat account with 13 million followers after outrage over fake story

23-Feb-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

China’s “social media queen” Mimeng closed her widely read WeChat public account on Thursday after a fake story about a young cancer victim went viral, sparking widespread outrage amid the country’s ongoing crackdown on online content.

Mimeng, who ran one of China’s most popular social media publishing platforms, or self-media accounts, amassed a fan base of 13 million WeChat followers and 2.6 million Weibo followers by writing sensational stories on topics of love, relationships, marriage and money all with clickbait headlines. Advertisers reportedly paid 750,000 yuan (US$112,000) for ads on the site.

At the start of the month Mimeng, whose real name is Ma Ling, announced the suspension of the WeChat public account and permanent closure of her Weibo account, while apologising for publishing a fake story about a young man born to a poor family, who graduated from one of China’s best universities and refused to accept illegal income while unemployed, but ultimately failed to succeed and died of cancer at 24.

The shutting of the accounts comes amid a renewed Chinese government push to remove what it considers inappropriate content from the internet, including rumours, pornography and vulgarity.

Earlier this month, China state-run media People’s Daily criticised Mimeng’s stories for manipulating public opinion, saying her original apology failed to address the main issue, and warning that self-media accounts cannot become spiritual pyramid schemes.

Previous stories published by Mimeng such as “How much you have to spend to become a goddess”, “The kind of man who never cheats on you” and “Yes, it’s true, I love money”, have each generated more than 100,000 views, considered a benchmark in the social media world for internet meme status.

Loyal followers, some of whom created the hashtag “cling to Mimeng” after the closure, said Mimeng helped them become independent. However, there were many critics, with some creating the term “following Mimeng rate” to describe how many WeChat friends followed Mimeng’s public account. In this case, a higher rate equated to a lower quality of WeChat friends.

WeChat, operated by Chinese internet giant Tencent, refused to comment on the closure of Mimeng while Weibo said in a statement that it was “resisting negative and vulgar content [and it] hopes self-media can eradicate fake information”.

Just like Facebook and Twitter in the West, social networks like WeChat and Weibo have become a primary news source for internet users in China, where anyone can set up an account and share their thoughts with a wider audience. WeChat, for example, has over 10 million public accounts that regularly publish content on the platform.

The online content boom has seen an explosion of vulgar and pornographic content, fake news and rumours, prompting Chinese authorities to more strictly regulate online platforms to eliminate what is seen as “harmful information”.

Last November the Cyberspace Administration of China said authorities had shut down more than 9,800 social media publishing accounts in a clean-up operation that began in late October. China’s state run broadcaster CCTV also said that some of these accounts did not have an “ethical bottom line”.


Category: China

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