Just a few months after Chinese President Xi Jinping tightened rules around online news consumption, the country’s top internet regulator has dropped another bomb that almost kills online anonymity.
According to the new set of rules, users will have to use their real-world identities to post comments and opinions online.
This regulation will come into effect on October 1 and supposedly aims to promote healthy development within the internet community.
Will this become a breakthrough move that eliminates fake news and makes the online world more reliable and safe? Or will it just be another effort to strengthen internet censorship laws by the Chinese government? Let’s dive straight into the facts that we know so far.
What Does This Mean for Websites?
News websites and blogs are going to have their hands full with this new law, as they’ll be expected to monitor all comments before publishing them.
Speaking of which, the very content that some websites promote might be under the scanner.
However, it has to be noted that real names won’t be published alongside the comments; only internet operators will be able to access private information.
If a comment or an opinion piece does get reported, the operator is expected to share corresponding information with the government.
Furthermore, if news agencies or bloggers decide to go live on platforms such as Periscope or Instagram, they will need to record real-time comments too.
There’s no news about how moderation will be implemented since the specifics haven’t been rolled out yet. But policing the world’s most populous country online seems like a daunting task.
No one should be surprised if organizations and agencies are forced to hire special teams for this very initiative.
What Qualifies as Unlawful Content?
The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has prepared an exhaustive rule set to police content online.
All posts will be strictly moderated before they are deemed fit to be published.
A post will be considered unlawful if:
- It opposes the basic principles outlined in the Constitution.
- It endangers national security and causes instability.
- It damages the country’s honor, image and interests.
- It incites violence, hatred and disharmony within the country.
- It promotes cults and undermines religious policies.
- It is spreading pornographic content, or any other content that promotes murder or terror.
- Any other content that is prohibited by law.
That list pretty much covers the components to the law.
And it’s worth noting that it does look like free speech is taking a substantial hit under this new directive, which is only the latest in a series of initiatives to limit citizens’ rights to communicating publically in China.
The Chinese government has been exercising such policies for a long time now on platforms such as WeChat.
The new regulation plans to expand this control to the entirety of the web.
Now, is this bad news? For some users, yes. But others do stand by the move.
Let’s analyze the general public consensus on the new law.
Reactions to the New Regulations
While the CAC maintains that their intention was to fight fake news online, a large group of netizens see it the other way around.
It was a well-known fact that Chinese internet users heavily relied on VPNs to access websites such as Facebook and Twitter, which are banned in the country.
Now, they really have to be careful with their words too—a complete loss of freedom and privacy.
Quite obviously, the public hasn’t been able to just gulp this down their throat.
There’s also news that a few other countries may follow the same route with new programs and laws aimed at internet censorship.
These concerns are already being raised by voices throughout the globe.
But a handful of experts within China do agree that the new set of regulations will bring order and authenticity to content online.
Fake news is a threat and its implications are very real, but just how effective will eliminating privacy combat the menace? This remains to be seen.
Future of Internet Censorship in China
With the Digital Era’s great gift of online anonymity now snatched from the Chinese public, one could only guess the government’s next move.
The authenticity of the claims will be monitored by experts and organizations around the world too.
Does this really help combat fake news? Or does it make the internet a boring place to be, where opinions are held back from being stated?
All in all, the current internet scenario in China is surely going to make for an interesting case study for years to come.