Chinese news giant Jinri Toutiao dangles cash incentives in ongoing fight against fake news

Toutiao has struggled with misinformation on its site since it was launched in 2012.

In a bid to fight misinformation, Chinese news giant Jinri Toutiao is offering cash incentives of up to 3,000 yuan (US$432) to the 100 top articles that are written to debunk rumours.

The Bytedance-owned platform said the campaign is targeted at any content deemed inappropriate, including sensitive political news, celebrity gossip, reporting of violent incidents and off-colour jokes.

Toutiao, which has struggled with misinformation on its site since it was launched in 2012, has banned 9,026 accounts and intercepted more than 500,000 articles containing rumours since May, using both human censors and AI technology, according to the South China Morning Post.

Critics have said the app encourages sensationalism and fear-mongering as it targets content for users, based on what they are likely to click on and tailor headlines for them regardless of whether it is fake or true.

“We would like to invite the whole society and users of the platform to be supervisors and together participate in the governance of online platforms!” Toutiao said in the official anti-rumour account on its site.

The move is similar to what the Chinese government announced this month, where it said it would offer a reward of up to 600,000 yuan for reporting pornographic and ‘illegal content’ online or print from 1 December.

Bytedance also faces similar problems with its apps in other parts of the world. In 2017, Toutiao’s US twin Topbuzz was found carrying fake news like Yoko Ono’s confession that she had an affair with Hilary Clinton in the 1970s. Bytedance moved to clean up Topbuzz by removing 2.6 million pieces of content and 4,600 accounts.

In India, its app Helo was found displaying false quotes or graphic images designed to provoke outrage along religious lines, manipulating the longstanding tensions between Hindus and Muslims in the country.

India has seen a rise of violent incidents caused by fake news leading the Indian government to threaten to cancel if journalists’ accreditation if they are found guilty of writing fake news. To help with the problem, Google launched the Google News Initiative Training Network in India in partnership with BoomLive, DataLeads and Internews.

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