China updates internet regulations to tighten control over online news

First major overhaul in 12 years consolidates rules across internet and social media formats

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2017, 11:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2017, 11:22pm

China’s internet regulator has updated its rules on internet and social media news, requiring all online news broadcasters to obtain government licences.

It is the first comprehensive revision of the regulations in 12 years.

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It incorporates a collection of piecemeal documents and groups them together to provide a clearer scope of the restrictions.

It also provides clearer definitions of which media would require licences for distributing news. They include “websites, applications, forums, blogs, microblogs, public accounts, instant messaging tools and internet broadcasts”.

The updated regulations were uploaded to the website of the Cyberspace Administration of China yesterday and come into ­effect on June 1.

It remains to be seen if the move signals a crackdown on public accounts of instant messaging platforms.

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Although the 2014 temporary regulations stipulate that licences must be held for publishing news content via public accounts on WeChat or instant messaging platforms, unofficial reporting and discussion of current affairs have thrived.

China this year ranked 176th place – fifth from the bottom – on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by the NGO Reporters without Borders, and has some of the world’s most intrusive regulations to control online content.

The country has developed its sophisticated so-called Great Firewall to deny its people access to uncensored online information. Google, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are banned in mainland

China, along with news websites of most foreign media.

Beijing has stepped up efforts to control internet information since President Xi Jinping came to power in late 2012.

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Internet censors last year closed a number of news channels on leading domestic internet portals including Sina.com and Sohu.com, banning their websites’ editorial staff from doing their own reporting or producing original content.

Early this year, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology started a campaign against unauthorised internet connections, including virtual private network services that enable internet users to bypass the Great Firewall.