The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s highest internet regulator, has issued new rules about who can post what online. The new rules expand on those which have been in place for several years which require users to identify themselves to use services such as WeChat and Weibo as well as for acquiring and using mobile phone numbers.
Proponents of the move defend the decision by claiming that China’s internet usage is growing and that everyone else is tightening their grip on the internet too. Shen Yi, a professor from the Fudan University Cyberspace Research Center said:
“The criticism from the Western media is biased and it ignores China’s development and achievements in the internet industry in the past few years. The censorship has not created obstacles for innovation and development, and this proves that the policy is at least suitable for China.
Not only China, but many other countries, including the US and many European countries have been strengthening control over the internet for national security reasons … The idea of sovereignty also applies to cyberspace, and countries have a right to implement policies to govern their own cyberspace. The West has no right to condemn China on cyberspace governance.”
In its announcement, the CAC has told online communities that they must not allow posting of any kind which is counter to national regulations (see list below), additionally the body said that the platforms should thoroughly investigate any users they think are using fake names and they must also retain all user data for government inspection.
Chinese internet users should avoid doing the following under the new rules:
- opposing the principles of the constitution of China
- endangering national security, revealing state secrets, subverting state power, and undermining national reunification
- damaging national honor and interests
- inciting national hatred, ethnic discrimination, and undermining national unity
- undermining the state’s policies on religion or promoting cults and feudal superstitions
- spreading rumours or disrupting social order
- spreading obscenity, pornography, violence, terror, or abetting a crime
- insulting or slandering others and infringing upon the lawful rights and interests of others
- violating any other laws and regulations
The new rules come hot on the heels of the outlawing of Virtual Private Networks; the clamping down of online freedoms is seen by most to be preparatory measures for the upcoming 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China where the leadership of the country will be picked for the upcoming term.