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China’s New Cyber Rules Tells Website Operators to Showcase Politically Acceptable Content

By Dave Yin / Mar 04, 2020 07:39 PM / Politics & Law

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China’s most comprehensive internet regulations to date include a list of prominent locations on websites where content deemed politically acceptable should go and information deemed ideologically undesirable — but not illegal — must not.

The content placements include highly visible locations on a website or app such as homepages of websites and e-commerce platforms, pop-ups, featured pages and social media posts, lists of popular search queries, popular recommendations and page rankings. They also apply to online games and even software skins.

According to the new rules (link in Chinese) these spots should be used for “encouraged” content, including promotional material about government-ordained “core socialist values,” Communist Party policy decisions, China’s economic and social development, and content that showcases the “worthy accomplishments and fervent lives” of the people, increases the global influence of Chinese culture, dispels public concerns, or “eulogizes truth, goodness and beauty.”

Content excluded from eye-catching locations includes stories featuring exaggerated headlines or scandals, “improper” comments about natural or manmade disasters, as well as content that is sexually titillating, instigates discrimination between different groups of people, is vulgar or in “poor taste,” or may lead minors to develop “unhealthy” habits.

“Online content creators should take steps to be on guard against and resist … such harmful information,” the regulations say.

The list of curbed content is separate from information that is outright illegal. Banned content includes posts that violate national security and interests, disrupt racial unity, defame national martyrs, promote or incite extremism, spread rumors, or disrupt economic and social order, the regulations say.

Online platforms have been told they should carry out stricter real-time content management, flesh out user registration and account management techniques, audit comment sections, and quell rumors and internet-based crimes. In addition, companies are required to write annual reports on their content management efforts and discuss the state of “social commentary.”

The new rules, first published by internet watchdog Cyberspace Administration of China in December, came into effect Sunday. Its implementation comes as AO3, a major U.S.-based fiction platform hosting a vast collection of homoerotic literature created by Chinese writers, was blocked in mainland China.

Contact reporter Dave Yin (davidyin@caixin.com) and editor Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com)

Related: China Handled 12 Million Reports of ‘Illegal and Harmful’ Data in December


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