China’s cyberspace watchdog said on Sunday it had ordered the closure of a microblog account of a former property tycoon, known for his bold remarks on China’s economic policy, for “spreading illegal information”.
Microblog portals such as Weibo.com and t.qq.com, among China’s most popular, were ordered to ban the account of Ren Zhiqiang, a retired top executive from a state-controlled property developer who has more than 30 million online followers.
“The cyberspace is not outside the laws, nobody is allowed to spread illegal information using the Internet,” Jiang Jun, spokesman for the Office of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs, was quoted as saying in a statement.
The statement, posted on the website of Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) (www.cac.gov.cn), did not say what specific comments had led to the ban of Ren’s account.
His account could not be found in a search on Sunday at Weibo.com, owned by Sina Corp, or t.qq.com, owned by Tencent Holdings.
Reuters was not able to reach Ren for comment.
According to a commentary posted on Feb. 22 on china.qianlong.com, a website run by the Beijing municipal government, Ren, a communist party member, was accused of making remarks against the state media and the party.
“Who gave Ren the courage to be anti-party?” was the title of the commentary, which also called him “cannon Ren who’s only a proxy for the capitals.”
The Chinese government routinely censors the Internet, blocking many sites it deems could challenge the rule of the Communist Party or threaten stability, including global sites such as Facebook and Google’s main search engine and Gmail service.
Authorities have launched numerous operations to combat illegal online behavior, from pornography to gambling.
Earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping toured the country’s top three state new organizations – Xinhua News Agency, People’s Daily and China Central Television – and asked them to toe the party lines.
(Reporting by Chen Aizhu and Clark Li; Editing by Clelia Oziel)
Tencent Holdings Ltd, China’s biggest social networking firm, has shut down 133 accounts on its hugely popular mobile messaging app for “distorting history”, state media said on Tuesday, citing a government internet authority.
The WeChat accounts, including one whose name translates as “This is not history”, spread “fabricated information” and confused the public, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC).
The censored accounts “were against laws and regulations”, “disobeyed socialist core values” and “severely disturbed the online order”.
Tencent declined to provide immediate comment.
China’s CAC, helmed by internet czar Lu Wei, has presided over sharp increase in state-mandated censorship and a campaign to “cleanse” the internet.
China operates the world’s most sophisticated internet censorship mechanism, known as the Great Firewall. Censors maintain a tight grip on what can and can’t be published online, especially anything seen to undermine the ruling Communist Party.
China is now taking steps to promote its vision of a clean, controlled and choreographed internet to other countries.
On Monday, Tencent apologized for rewarding WeChat app users who sent a message with the English phrase “civil rights” with a screen full of fluttering U.S. flags.
The CAC said last week it had closed 50 websites and social media accounts for violations ranging from pornography to “publishing political news without a permit”.
In September, Xinhua said the cyberspace watchdog had closed nearly 1.8 million accounts on social networking and instant messaging services since launching an anti-pornography campaign earlier in the year.
Source: Reuters “China’s Tencent shuts down 133 WeChat accounts for ‘distorting history’: Xinhua”
There can be no Internet freedom without order, China’s top Communist Party newspaper said on Monday after several U.S. television shows were pulled from Chinese video sites, the latest signs of Beijing’s tightening grip on online content.
The removal of the shows coincides with a broad crackdown on online freedom of expression that has intensified since President Xi Jinping came to power last year and drawn criticism from rights advocates at home and abroad.
Authorities last week also stepped up their battle against pornography, revoking some online publication licenses of one of China’s largest Internet firms, Sina Corp, for allowing “lewd and pornographic” content.
“While ordinary people and governments have enjoyed the conveniences brought by the Internet, they have also in turn experienced the Internet’s negative effects and hidden security dangers,” the People’s Daily, the party’s main mouthpiece, said in a commentary.
It was published under the pen name “Zhong Sheng”, meaning “Voice of China”, often used to give views on foreign policy.
“If you don’t have Internet order, how can you have Internet freedom? Anyone enjoying and exercising their Internet rights and freedoms must not harm the public interest and cannot violate laws and regulations and public ethics,” the paper said.
Four U.S. television shows, The Big Bang Theory, The Practice, The Good Wife and NCIS, were ordered removed from video websites at the weekend by the government, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The series are all popular and it was not clear why these particular programs had been singled out.
Searches on Youku Tudou, Sohu and Tencent, which provide the shows, produced messages that the content was temporarily unavailable.
“I believe it’s a standalone event and it doesn’t represent a policy change toward American TV shows,” Sohu CEO Charles Zhang told a conference call with reporters.
The directive, he said, gave no explanation for the take-down notice and he declined to comment further. Youku Tudou and Tencent declined comment on the order.
Earlier on Monday, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) told Reuters it had acquired the exclusive broadcasting rights for The Big Bang Theory, but did not specify whether or not the license was only for TV.
The removal of the shows followed a directive from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) last month that tightened the process for broadcasting television programs and short films online.
Programs and films lacking licenses are not permitted to be shown online, according to the SARFT directive. Penalties include a warning and a fine and, in serious cases, a five-year ban on operations and investment in online programming.
But there are no specific regulations governing overseas TV programs licensed by Chinese websites, said one person who works at an online video site, adding that regulation was expected at some point but with a minor impact on the industry.
Nonetheless, the lack of clarity from both the government and the companies involved raises questions about whether foreign programs will be subject to greater scrutiny.
China’s online video market was worth 12.8 billion yuan ($2.05 billion) in 2013, according to Chinese data firm iResearch. Market value is expected to almost triple by 2017.
SARFT has been in discussions with online video sites about greater control of their content since 2009, according to people familiar with the matter.
China maintains tight control over the media. Censorship is widespread, and Internet users cannot access information about many topics without special software to circumvent restrictions.
Online video sites are extremely popular and can act as a lodestone for comment on social issues.
The Communist Party last year renewed a campaign on online interaction, threatening legal action against people whose perceived rumors on microblogs like Sina Weibo, are reposted more than 500 times or seen by more than 5,000 people.
The campaign has muted online demands from advocates of transparency, who see it as a tool to punish Party critics.
($1 = 6.2536 Chinese yuan)
Source: Reuters “China party mouthpiece says no Internet freedom without order, as US TV shows pulled”
- Man confesses in first public trial in China’s rumor crackdown: Xinhua dated April 11, 2014
- How rumor sparked panic and three-day bank run in Chinese city dated March 26, 2014
- China holds two bloggers as it expands crackdown on rumors dated October 18, 2013
- China experimenting with more ‘subtle’ Internet censorship dated June 2, 2013
China is experimenting with more subtle methods to censor Internet search results ahead of the 24th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, according to a group that monitors blocked websites in the country.
In the past, a search for keywords in China related to the events of June 4, 1989, came up with an explicit message saying: “According to relevant laws, regulations and policies, search results for (the blocked keyword) can not be displayed.”
But GreatFire.org said in the lead up to the anniversary certain searches, such as “June 4 incident”, had been intermittently returning a series of “carefully selected results”, though it was impossible to click through to the actual webpages.
The organisation said this was an example of “censorship at its worst”, with users duped into believing the keyword they were searching for was not a sensitive topic.
Troops killed hundreds of protesters during the pro-democracy protests in Beijing, but GreatFire.org said searches for “Tiananmen incident” returned links to an unrelated happening in the square from 1976.
It said the changes were not applied consistently, concluding that the authorities were conducting tests to improve their control systems.
The Internet in China is purged of politically sensitive websites and Beijing closely monitors the hundreds of millions of web users to prevent organised dissent. Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are banned.
The system of online censorship is dubbed the “Great Firewall”, a term combining the words “Great Wall” and computer “firewall”.
Source: Times Live “China experimenting with more ‘subtle’ Internet censorship”
SCMP says, China’s “internet and broadcasting regulators have issued restrictions on online serials and short films for the first time, in an effort to ensure that all content run on video websites has passed the censors.
“In a short statement released on Monday, the State Internet Information Office and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) told internet video service providers they would now be held responsible for all original programming posted on their websites.
“It also told the operators of video websites that they must review all content, including serials and short films, before publishing.
“Unlike television series or films screened in cinemas, online drama series and short films have existed in an uncensored world, barring the general censorship applied to everything shown online.
“A SARFT spokesman told Xinhua that online drama series and short films could help develop a positive internet culture. However, some online programmes featured seriously vulgar, violent or obscene content, and the authorities were responding to an ‘outcry from internet users and video websites.’”