China’s beleaguered video sites cave to Communist Party’s controls
China’s popular and lucrative video-streaming websites are censoring their content and offering Communist Party propaganda as they brace for even tighter controls on the internet.
Video and live-streaming sites have been a major target of Beijing’s sweeping efforts to “clean up” the internet, with more than 70 shut down and more than 50 million users comments pulled since January, according to official figures.
Other sites have withdrawn material to comply with Beijing’s demand to promote “socialist values”. Earlier this month, nearly all foreign films and TV shows on two popular YouTube-style sites were suddenly taken offline.
Management of Bilibili, one of the two websites, said on the weekend that the decision to remove the content was “completely self-censorship”.
“The government has put forward some requirements for online video content,” chairman Chen Rui said on Sunday. “I think Bilibili has developed to a certain stage, and needs to review and clean up its content.”
Chen, whose platform has more than 150 million active users, said videos that failed the review would not reappear on the site, without specifying the terms of the assessments.
Last month, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television singled out animated video website AcFun for hosting programmes that “propagate negative remarks”.
AcFun responded with an abject apology on Weibo, saying it accepts the authority’s criticism and punishment.
The website said it would eliminate videos and comments that were obscene, violent or otherwise violated regulations.
“[We] promote socialist harmonious values in the form of animation, which is beloved by young people,” AcFun said.
Other platforms are also toeing the party line by offering themselves as a way to reach the young generation.
Top live-streaming site Douyu set up a party committee last month, with online hosts broadcasting party propaganda online.
During a live-streaming session last week, a woman host dressed in Red Army uniform filmed herself buying Mao Zedong badges at a gift shop.
“The internet celebrity party committee is not a publicity stunt,” state-run Workers’ Daily, quoted Yuan Gang, the company’s party secretary, as saying.
“In the future, we need more support from the [Communist Party’s] Organisation Department, the Propaganda Department and the internet regulator.”
Beijing’s online clampdown has also included the roll-out of the highly restrictive Cybersecurity Law, suspension of celebrity gossip social media accounts, and the closure of virtual private networks used to skirt the “Great Firewall”.