The innovations concern the regulations on the administration of Internet post comment services, which first came into force in 2017 and which the Cyberspace Administration intends to update five years later.
“The proposed revisions primarily update the current version of the commenting rules to align with the language and policies of newer agencies, such as: B. new laws on personal data protection, data security and general content regulations,” says Jeremy Daum, senior fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School.
The regulations cover many types of comments, including forum posts, replies, postings on public message boards, and “bullet chats” (an innovative way video platforms in China use to display real-time comments over a video). . All formats, including text, icons, GIFs, images, audio, and video, fall under this rule.
There is a need for a separate regime for comments because the large number makes it difficult to censor them as severely as other content such as articles or videos, says Eric Liu, a former Weibo censor who now works at China Digital Times on Chinese censorship researched.
“One thing everyone in the censorship industry knows is that nobody pays attention to the replies and bullet chats. They are moderated carefree and with minimal effort,” says Liu.
But recently, there have been several troubling instances where comments have gone rogue among government Weibo accounts, either pointing out government lies or dismissing the official account. This could have been the reason for the update proposed by the regulator.
Chinese social platforms are currently at the forefront of censorship work, often actively removing posts before the government and other users can even see them. ByteDance is known to employ thousands of content reviewers, who make up the largest number of employees in the company. Other companies outsource the task to companies offering “censorship for rent,” including a company owned by China’s party spokesman People’s Daily. The platforms are often penalized for letting things slip.
Beijing is constantly refining its control over social media, closing loopholes and imposing new restrictions. But the vagueness of recent revisions has people worried that the government may ignore practical challenges. For example, if the new rule requiring pre-release reviews is to be strictly enforced — which would require reading billions of public messages posted by Chinese users every day — it will force platforms to limit the number of people who employ them for transportation, dramatically increasing censorship. The tricky question is, no one knows if the government intends to enforce this immediately.