China wants to censor all comments on social media

The new changes are for Provisions for the management of Internet commenting servicesan ordinance that first came into force in 2017. Five years later, the cyberspace administration wants to update it.

“The proposed revisions mainly update the current version of the ‘comment rules’ to bring them in line with the language and policies of the newer authorities, such as new laws on personal data protection, data security and general content provisions.” Jeremy Daum, Senior Research Fellow, Paul Cai Center at Yale University.

The provisions cover a wide range of “comments”, including everything from forum posts, replies, messages left on public bulletin boards and “chats with bullets”(An innovative way that video platforms in China use to display real-time comments on video). All formats, including text, symbols, gifs, photographs, audio and video, fall within the scope of this Regulation.

There is a need for self-regulation of comments, as the sheer number makes them difficult to censor as strictly as other content, such as articles or videos, said Eric Liu, a former Weibo censor who now studies Chinese censorship in the China Digital Times.

“One thing everyone in the censorship industry knows is that no one pays attention to answers and chats. They are moderated carelessly, with minimal effort, “says Liu.

But recently, there have been several embarrassing cases where comments under government Weibo accounts have been deceptive, pointing out government lies or rejecting the official narrative. This may be the reason for the update proposed by the regulator.

Chinese social platforms are now often at the forefront of censorship active removal of publications before the government and other consumers can even see them. ByteDance employs thousands of content reviewers who make up the largest number of employees in the company. Other companies also export from hiring censorship companies, including one owned by the Chinese People’s Daily party. The platforms are often punished to let things slip away.

Beijing is constantly improving its control over social media, fixing doors and introducing new restrictions. But the ambiguity of recent revisions has led people to worry that the government may ignore the practical challenges. For example, if the new rule of mandatory pre-publication reviews is to be strictly enforced – effectively reading billions of public announcements posted by Chinese users every day – this will force platforms to dramatically increase the number of people they hire to censor. The difficult question is that no one knows whether the government intends to impose this immediately.

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