back to article China shutters 50 websites for spreading explosion 'rumours'

China's Cyberspace Administration has taken down 50 web sites for reporting “rumours” on the Tianjin explosions. State organ Xinhua now reports that 112 people are confirmed dead, with another 95 missing, after last week's explosions in a dangerous good warehouse. Chinese media that have reported different versions of events …

  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Trollface

    Woah. Thank $DEITY for $REDACTED Freedom of the Press

    Most of the media would have been dragged away, yipee-ka-yay style, over Fukushima...

    1. cyke1

      Re: Woah. Thank $DEITY for $REDACTED Freedom of the Press

      Freedom of the press? This is China, the press is government owned Like Russia.

      1. Steve Knox

        Re: Woah. Thank $DEITY for $REDACTED Freedom of the Press

        And very unlike the western democracies, where the various press organizations are owned by honest businesspeople and not at all biased towards particular ideologies.

        1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          Re: Woah. Thank $DEITY for $REDACTED Freedom of the Press

          And very unlike the western democracies...

          Nice troll, but it falls a bit flat. For one thing, you can publicly disagree with privately owned news media and not get hauled off to a re-education camp.

          1. Warm Braw Silver badge

            Re: Woah. Thank $DEITY for $REDACTED Freedom of the Press

            I think you'd have to very careful about even repeating public statements of others in privately-owned media in western democracies these day, if you want to stay out of jail.

          2. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Woah. Thank $DEITY for $REDACTED Freedom of the Press

            A lot of people got hauled of to re-education camp for attacking horses hooves with their bodies after Orgreave.

          3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

            Re: Woah. Thank $DEITY for $REDACTED Freedom of the Press

            Not for lack of trying. And if your in the media spot light doing so just paints a target big enough to see from space on your back.

          4. Steven Roper

            Re: Woah. Thank $DEITY for $REDACTED Freedom of the Press

            For one thing, you can publicly disagree with privately owned news media and not get hauled off to a re-education camp.

            No, you just get doxed by a howling Facebook social-justice vigilante mob who then spamflood your employer to get you sacked, picket your house and ruin your life for the hideous crime of political incorrectness.

        2. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Woah. Thank $DEITY for $REDACTED Freedom of the Press

          It is easy to make fun of China for <evil voice>censorship</evil voice> but the US press and blogs could do with some of this. Not that I'd want the government in charge of it, but if there was some sort of independent body of journalistic ethics (assuming there are any ethical journalists left to form such a body) that would slap down those using spin or just outright lying I wouldn't consider it a bad thing.

          Maybe such a time never really existed except in the movies, but I think back to those old 40s black and white movies where Cary Grant or Katharine Hepburn or someone was the hard hitting go-getter journalist and the hero and/or love interest of the story. If you cast a leading actor as a journalist today, they'd be cast as a misanthrope who writes an advice column. No way they'd be a hero taking down the rich and powerful except by rudest accident - it would fail the believability test!

          1. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: Woah. Thank $DEITY for $REDACTED Freedom of the Press

            No way they'd be a hero taking down the rich and powerful except by rudest accident - it would fail the believability test!

            Only if they hadn't lived through Watergate.. If you did, this would probably be very believable.

          2. Hud Dunlap
            Boffin

            Re: Woah. Thank $DEITY for $REDACTED Freedom of the Press @DougS

            Used to be the editors did this. Read Walter Cronkite's autobiography. If you said something happened to John Smith and it was John Smyth it was your read end.

          3. msknight Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Woah. Thank $DEITY for $REDACTED Freedom of the Press

            "but if there was some sort of independent body of journalistic ethics (assuming there are any ethical journalists left to form such a body) that would slap down those using spin or just outright lying I wouldn't consider it a bad thing."

            Well, there go any campaigns for government offices then... Mind you, the takedown of Faux News would probably be welcomed; either that or they'd be forced to put, "This show is for entertainment only," at the bottom of the screen on all their broadcasts.

            1. Dan Paul

              Re: Woah. Thank $DEITY for $REDACTED Freedom of the Press

              So the outright lies and deliberate attempts to rabble rouse by MSNBC and CNN get a pass? I find them to be more entertainment than news any day.

              For all you out there in La La Land who didn't know, trustworthy "Journalism" is dead now and MSNBC, Disney, and NBC are at the forefront of why. Why "report" the news when you can just make it up or even worse, make it happen? Creating drama can create not only website traffic but cause bullets to fly. One day, they'll get caught inciting a riot... Ooops, too late. They are caught up in a vicious cycle of "likes" being more important than truth.

              All news media have an agenda now that colors the whole tone of their reporting. Used to be "Just the facts, Ma'am. Now it's "Does it follow the template we got from Obama or Hillary?"

              Everything you see on TV can be manipulated in too many ways to consider. If you want the "real" news you have to look at it all in any form or source.

              And most importantly, you have to make up YOUR OWN MIND!

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Woah. Thank $DEITY for $REDACTED Freedom of the Press

                "One day, they'll get caught inciting a riot."

                Or the Spanish-American war (FYI: read up on Randolph Hearst's role in that)

      2. stolennomenclature

        Re: Woah. Thank $DEITY for $REDACTED Freedom of the Press

        And of course Western politicians and the press always print the gospel truth, don't they?

  2. Mark 85 Silver badge

    If this were Mao's China...

    ... there would have been no press on this disaster. Anyone talking about it would never be heard from again. However, I do suspect the "missing" is a bit higher than being reported and in light of the de-contamination effort getting underway, the death toll might be higher also. Probably this is keep a panic from happening as there's also reports of "unknown" chemicals that were stored there.. IOW, they've lightened up control of the press a bit, but not allowing a US style media frenzy with all that brings on.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If this were Mao's China...

      It would hardly be "panic" to want to get the hell away from an area that's had chemicals that are known to be toxic spread all around it, probably along with unknown substances that could be even worse. Unfortunately for the residents of this area, the top priority of the Chinese government is protecting the Communist Party, not their lives, and news media are regarded as a means to that end. I think we all know that the official version of this will be a lower body count than the reality, the storage company bosses up against a brick wall, and a few low-level officials locked up for turning a blind eye. Nothing (much) to see here, everything under control, move along...

      1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

        Re: If this were Mao's China...

        Well that is the Reg banned from China then

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: If this were Mao's China...

      "In light of the de-contamination effort getting underway, the death toll might be higher also."

      Given that the chinese have repeatedly said that the numbers they've given are the _confirmed_ ones, that's highly likely.

      What they don't want is estimates which are wildly inaccurate as it just causes more panic and people descending on the vicinity searching for relatives or demanding answers from harried officials that they simply can't give (as happened to some extent with MH370).

  3. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Anybody know what the rumors were?

    OK, the sites were pulled. Just curious, did anyone see what kind of numbers were listed on these sites before they were pulled?

    1. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Anybody know what the rumors were?

      Deaths in the thousands, apparently.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Anybody know what the rumors were?

        Which sadly, is far more believeable - consideing the devistation in the pictures we've seen.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anybody know what the rumors were?

      Also that the immediate cause of the explosion was the fire service inappropriately spraying water onto chemicals that reacted with it - which of course might raise uncomfortable questions about the competence of the authorities.

    3. Ian Emery Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Anybody know what the rumors were?

      According to my Chinese wife the rumours erased include -

      Thousands of people missing (you can see at least 3 completely destroyed apartment blocks in drone footage, one of which I calculate was home to 800 people)

      Firemen not told that water would react with the toxic chemicals ("tweet" and "retweet" from fireman deleted over 50,000 times).

      Photos and stories of ALL the local hospitals being filled with dead bodies.

      It is for times like this that the Chinese government pay somewhere north of one million employees to monitor and clean up internet forums.

      I have had a similar post to this vanish from a non Chinese forum, so government hackers may also be out targeting bad news hosted elsewhere.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Anybody know what the rumors were?

        I have had a similar post to this vanish from a non Chinese forum, so government hackers may also be out targeting bad news hosted elsewhere.

        With that level of dedication, one would think this "company" was actually a black site doing interesting research.

      2. Qu Dawei

        Re: Anybody know what the rumors were?

        Having recently returned from a long stay in China, it is really quite unnerving the extent to which one's posts on various Chinese social media are monitored and quietly removed if anything remotely uncomfortable for some interpretation of the CCP's position is mentioned. My Chinese relatives even got to the stage of asking me not to post anything other than innocuous jokey messages about nothing serious to stop me from becoming too much of a "regular" for the censors. To give just two examples: Posts that commented on a friend's photos of Tibetan Buddhist sites, where I just mentioned the pre-Buddhist religion of Bon were removed within 90 seconds of me posting them, and a comment about the UK election results in answer to a question from a student of mine in China were also nuked after about 2 minutes. Two examples out of about 20 in 5 years of living in China where I made a conscious decision to avoid posting anything *I* thought was too contentious. Obviously, I thought the censors had thicker skin than they actually did.

        I can also back up the claims about casualties that the previous poster was told about from chatting with my family there and from other close friends, though we have almost started to speak in code when using the phone or video calls about it.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Anybody know what the rumors were?

          It's so hard to calibrate the paranoia when an authoritarian system responds to something like this. One story I heard on the BBC World Service was that a bunch of journalists researching the company whose warehouse it was tried to get on the Chinese company registration database. I guess trying to find who owns them, or how big they are. Only to find a notice on that website that it was down due to being switched off to stop the spread of unhelpful information.

          I'm not sure whether that means it's owned by someone or some entity that would be embarrassing, or if this was just the kneejerk reaction of "hide everything!"

          It must be hard to run a company in a country where vital business information resources can just disappear for a while due to an embarrassing media story in a different city from you.

      3. Bleu

        Re: Anybody know what the rumors were?

        Ian, you sounded convincing until you claimed that your similar post on a site outside China was deleted by 'government hackers'.

        We 'government hackers' had no interest in you, you do not name the site. I would be suggesting that controllers where you posted were removing your post because it was stupid.

        Do not worry, we 'government hackers' will be keeping as close eye on you and your every brain fart from now as we can.

        '

        We do not know what you posted, but you can be assured, we wil be tracking it down very soon.

  4. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Still learning about PR...

    Chinese official in press conference on BBC news explaining they had detected cyanide at two locations but won't say where they are because cyanide is poisonous.

    Yep, that is going to reassure everyone that the authorities are keeping people out of harm's way, and not cause mass panic at all.

  5. Myvekk

    I haven't seen any of the unofficial figures. Last I read, though, stated they had found ~700tonnes of sodium cyanide. The site had a limit of 10... And if it is exposed & it rains, it can react to release hydrogen cyanide as a gas...

    Yes, they REALLY want to prevent possible panic. That could potentially kill as many as the gas.

  6. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Western stlye

    In the West after a similar explosion $company would "find" their stock control on Pastebin. $company says "Look! This proves that we were hacked and it only shows 7 tons of cyanide". This is shortly followed by "After thorough investigation we found that an evil hacker set the coffee machine to overheat so we are not to blame and won't be compensating anyone".

    Or something like that, YMMV. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster

  7. stairway

    If only it were this easy to shut down Fox News, biblical creationists, and climate deniers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I would start with the antivaxers and "entrepreneurial state" crazies though.

      1. Bleu

        Serious questions to the AC.

        What is an antivaxer or a vax? I know of the old computer systems, but do not know what you mean, so cannot give you a vote either way.

        By "entrepreneurial state", do you mean a state where some state-owned businesses have become entrepreneurial (as in China as exemplar), a state in which 'enterpreneurs' are given free rides, have excessive influence, and are used as instruments of state power (as in the USA as exemplar), or something else?

        I ask for reasons of study. Hate it when I do not understand terms.

        1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Serious questions to the AC.

          @Bleu - I guess that they are like the groups who are anti-vaccination, but, instead of objecting to injecting people with cows, they object to injecting people with old computers.

          1. Bleu

            Re: Serious questions to the AC.

            Thank you for clearing up the first part in a funny way.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Bleu

      Shut down,

      well aren't we the all-for-the-free-flow-of-information one?

      Not that I am a fan of what I hear about Faux, seems to be a parade of idiocy. Neither am I anything but amazed by young-Earth creationists (I think that is the term). From my reading, I see that the idea has also caught on very strongly among the sillier and more extreme Jews and Muslims.

      Shut them down? Why? If someone wants to push that stupid idea, good luck to them, in the end, the whole idea can only lead to one conclusion: the creator has composed the geological record as a big lie, for a test of faith. The latter argument is unlikely to work on non-brainwashed people who see this flaw.

      Even if it weren't for that, they should be free to push their silly idea, as long as they don't try to make it the only one.

      Plenty of 'biblical creationists' accept the rough true ages of the Earth, Solar system, the universe, and accept the geological record.

      I suspect that such people are the true subject of your 'shut them down'. Fact is, you can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a creator. Even Dawkins recently posited aliens.

      If you want to find a model of information control that exceeds that of most totalitarian systems, try posting things, in polite terms, that they disagree with on The Guardian's inaptly named 'Comment is Free'. You will quickly find it impossible to post anything except rubbish that you don't care about, anyway.

      Then again, that is clearly how you would like the world to work.

      From your post, which reeks of new-left totalitarianism, I suppose you must be, or dream of being one of their censors, sorry, I mean 'moderators'.

      Wonder how and where they recruit them?

      Pretty sure they don't pay.

      Personally, I don't work for free, except in exceptional cases. Being an on-line bully for a strange collection of causes (you clearly would agree with all of them) does not qualify.

      I agree with the OPs who are saying that the death toll from the explosion(s?) must be higher than is being stated.

      BTW, this is the same as the post I withdrew, except the bit about 'biblical creationism', and mistaking the AC for stardust.

      1. stairway

        Re: Shut down,

        And you took me seriously?

        and by "shut down" I wasnt refering to censorshi.but critique.

        sorry for the huff.

        1. Bleu

          Re: Shut down,

          Well, it was you using the words 'shut down' for a few ideas. I agree with none of the ideas (maybe the third, since I can't recall what that was), but 'shut down' is pure bullying and attempted thought control.

          Perhaps you may revise that mentality some time.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We help this $ort of thing to happen!

    I think that I will purchase more Chinese made stuff so that I can reward the government and corporate behavior that encourages this sort of disaster to happen.

    1. Bleu

      Re: We help this $ort of thing to happen!

      It is hard to avoid buying made-in-China things, in Japan, too.

      Sometimes, I try to find the made-in-Japan of a product I like, particularly in niche markets it is becoming impossible.

      You can still find video players, monitors, audio made here.

      Just checking through my bag, my Casio electronic dictionary that I have to use for posting here sometimes is made in China, so is the 3DS.

      I already checked my mini video camcorder, designed in Japan, made in China, like the other two.

      Sure, some of the chips are made here, but I am not so sure about the 3DS.

      Many have noted that it is, in part, to do with exporting environmental problems.

  9. x 7

    I see the BBC have a theory that water being used to put out the fire reacted with the calcium carbide releasing acetylene gas which exploded - in turn detonating ammonium nitrate also stored on site.

    Either acetylene or ammonium nitrate could easily explain the violence of the explosions.

    1. Bleu

      I am quite sure

      that 'the BBC is repeating something their reporters heard about' is the more correct way to say it.

      1. x 7

        Re: I am quite sure

        "that 'the BBC is repeating something their reporters heard about' is the more correct way to say it."

        If I thought that was correct, then that is what I would have said. In the meantime I suggest you stop spouting bollox

  10. Lenny_Hao

    We could do with some moderation on the "news" media here... endless speculation, hollow rumour, tweets from twits and generally downright sloppy, populist journalism seem to dominate what should be authoritative and high quality content...

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Hi Lenny, how's life behind the Great Firewall?

      Lighten up and remember: Bhopal Chernobyl Mayak that reality does not go away if one sits on it.

  11. x 7

    If you put together the various snippets appearing on different news agencies, it appears that much of the firefighting effort - at least initially - was from bands of commercial contractors, rather than state / municipal authorities. The implication seems to be that they weren't all that well trained, and also that they have been ignored in the official death statistics. Similarly there are reports that details of deaths among the police have been suppressed - one Chinese (Taiwan?) site reported a surviving officer as saying his complete station had been wiped out, with none being reported as missing or dead.

    Another question is what this is going to do to the flow of goods out of China - Tianjin is an important port for Peking and I suspect this is going to really hurt their export logistics

  12. Alien8n Silver badge

    Conspiracy theorists

    Wish they could silence the conspiracy theorists. I've already seen one story that claims the site was nuked by the US in order to bring China "in line" with US foreign policy. Er no, when you ignite that much ammonium nitrate you do get an explosion that big.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Conspiracy theorists

      Welcome to the Internet. The ride never ends here!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Conspiracy theorists

        Ammonium Nitrate can't melt steel beams!

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. x 7

          Re: Conspiracy theorists

          "Ammonium Nitrate can't melt steel beams!"

          it can do a good job of bending them in an explosion

          and chemical fires can easily bend and warp them. Believe me, I've been there and seen it several times on fires magnitudes smaller than this. Don't forget that the explosion is only part of the story - its was a by-product of the very large fire

          1. x 7

            Re: Conspiracy theorists

            as a postscipt to my last post, if that second explosion was due to ammonium nitrate, the the indicated "21 tonnes of TNT" equivalent blast equates to around 180-210 tonnes of ammonium nitrate.

            Thats roughly ten 20" containers of the stuff

            not really a lot considering the size of the depot. Of course we don't know how closely they would have been parked - or what else was there.

  13. enormous c word

    Govt Owned Press?

    I'd rather have my press owned by a dishonest businessman than an honest government (but only just)

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      Re: Govt Owned Press?

      A tautology and an oxymoron in the same sentence, well done.

  14. ecofeco Silver badge

    Wait. What?!

    "China's National Supercomputer Centre at Tianjin is two kilometres from the blast zone. The Centre's Tianhe-1 supercomputer was taken offline on the day of the blast. It's unclear if it is has returned to work, but with the three kilometre exclusion zone in operation it seems set to remain offline for some time."

    Holy fuck! Er, this is far too "coincidental". Yeah, I'm kinda paranoid that way. So sue me.

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