The ruling Chinese Communist Party has banned news from unofficial sources, including social media, from appearing on websites and social media platforms in the country.
Websites and mobile content providers wishing to use social media as a source for stories must first verify the contents of the posts or tweets independently, the country's powerful Cyberspace Administration said in a statement on its website.
"Websites are strictly prohibited from using fabricated news, or news stories based on unnamed news sources, hearsay or guesswork," the statement said.
Media outlets must provide true, objective, and impartial coverage by improving news production procedures and internal checking mechanisms, it said.
The administration has already sanctioned some major news portals after accusing them of "fabricating" stories this year, it warned, citing sina.com, ifeng. com, 163.com and Tencent as examples.
"We will keep up the pressure on the regulation of false news and information online, and ... continually regulate the orderly use of information online," the statement quoted an unnamed administration official as saying.
Widening government control
The rules also apply to all mobile news portals, microblogging platforms and the smartphone messaging app WeChat, it said.
Activists and online writers said the move is the latest in a string of directives to emerge from internet regulators, who are widening government control over freedom of speech and public opinion.
They said the inclusion of mobile chat and social media posts in the ban was a key factor behind the directive.
"The main point of controlling websites is to control social media platforms ... like WeChat which lack a [comprehensive] censorship system at present," Guangzhou-based online writer Ye Du told RFA.
"Their attempt to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted, which is a sort of threatening behavior, is aimed at increasing a sense of fear among internet users," he said.
Guangdong rights activist Jia Pin said he wouldn't pay much attention to the directive, however.
"I'm just going to carry on posting what I want to post," Jia said. "Most rights activists' online activities won't be affected, but the authorities will likely make use of these rules to detain some internet users."
The move is the latest in raft of controls on what Chinese internet users can see online, and comes amid an ideological campaign launched by President Xi Jinping earlier this year.
The party's internal disciplinary arm has warned its powerful propaganda department that it is failing to exert enough control over public opinion, particularly online and in universities.
War on Western ideas
Meanwhile, Xi has hit out at "western" ideas entering Chinese public debate, adding that he wants all public debate to be shaped by the Communist Party and not by "hostile foreign forces" peddling values like democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Last month, authorities in the central province of Henan set up an online task force comprised of volunteers from schools and universities who wage an ideological "struggle" on behalf of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
In January, the Cyberspace Administration said it would prioritize "using Chinese views and Chinese plans to lead to a transformation in the governance system of the internet globally."
President Xi has called for a system for the global internet whereby "sovereignty" rests in the hands of individual countries, which may control what users in their country can see or do online.
The internet regulator also pledged to "let the party’s achievements in theoretical innovation and practical accomplishments become the highly held main tone and key themes in cyberspace."
Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.