Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

China kicks top influencer off social media for fabricating viral story of boy’s lost homework

Thurman Maoyibe claimed a waiter in Paris had given her workbooks left by a Chinese schoolboy and set out on a mission to return them

Shweta Sharma
Monday 15 April 2024 13:23 BST
Related: Influencer fakes a weekend at Coachella

Chinese authorities have shut down the social media accounts of a top influencer for fabricating the viral story of a boy’s missing homework in Paris.

Sina Weibo, WeChat and Douyin accounts of Thurman Maoyibei, 29, were removed after a police investigation found that she had fabricated the story.

The influencer, whose surname police said was Xu, had a combined following of 30 million on various Chinese platforms.

Ms Xu posted a video on 16 February claiming that a waiter at a coffee shop in Paris handed her two holiday workbooks that belonged to a student named Quin Lang. She then jumped on the mission to return the books to the grade 1 boy in China.

The video quickly went viral in China and sparked the search for the boy, with hashtags such as "Grade 1 Class 8 Qin Lang" getting millions of views on Weibo, a microblogging site, and Douyin, the name for TikTok in China.

A week after posting the first video, Ms Xu posted another clip claiming that she had got in touch with the boy’s family and returned the books.

An investigation was launched after the authenticity of the videos was called into question.

The influencer, who is from the southern city of Hangzhou, has since apologised and acknowledged posting a fabricated story.

Ms Xu said she made up the story due to her "light legal consciousness" and acknowledged that her actions "disrupted the internet order and resulted in massive negative influence".

"I should clearly know my social responsibilities and should not create some content just to grab attention," she said.

"I call on my colleagues to learn from my lesson and never fabricate or spread false content. Let’s work together to maintain a clean and healthy online environment.”

Hangzhou police said they launched an investigation following complaints about Ms Xu’s viral video. They discovered that Ms Xu and an accomplice had purchased the books with the intention of creating the viral video. They have both been slapped with administrative penalties.

China’s Ministry of Public Security cited Ms Xu’s case as an example of its crackdown on online rumours. It said over 1,500 people have been arrested since December for spreading online rumours and about 10,700 people have been handed administrative punishment.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in