Social Platform Comments Will Now Be Censored In China

China is planning to regulate the billions of online comments posted in the country on a daily basis.

On June 17, Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) published a draft update on the obligations of platform and content creators in managing online comments.

All online comments would now have to be view beforehand before being published in China. This move by CAC will someway be a problem for online users who are now stressed that the move could be used to additionally tighten freedom of expression in China.

The new changes affect Provisions on the Management of Internet Post Comments Services, a guideline that previously happened in 2017. After five years, the Cyberspace Administration needs to bring it state-of-the-art.

The proposed amendment primarily update the current version of the comment rules to bring them into line with the language and policies of more recent authority, such as new laws on the protection of personal information, data security, and general content regulations.

The provisions cover many types of comments, including anything from forum posts, replies, messages left on public message boards, and “bullet chats” (an innovative way that video platforms in China use to display real-time comments on top of a video). All formats, including texts, symbols, GIFs, pictures, audio, and videos, fall under this regulation.

As indicated by Eric Liu, a former censor for Weibo, there’s a requirement for an independent regulation on comments on the grounds that, the immense number makes them challenging to blue pencil as thoroughly as other contents, similar to articles or videos.

However, as of late, there have been a few abnormal situations where comments under government Weibo accounts denounced any kind of authority, bringing up government lies or dismissing the authority story. That could be what has incited the controller’s proposed update.

Chinese social platforms are at present on the bleeding edges of control work, frequently effectively deleting posts before the government and other users could see them. ByteDance broadly uses great many comment commentators, who make up the biggest number of workers at the organization.

Beijing is continually refining its social media control, repairing provisos and introducing new limitations. But the dubiousness of the most recent updates makes people think that the government might disregard reasonable challenges.

For instance, if the new rule about mandating pre-publish reviews is to be strictly enforced—which would require reading billions of public messages posted by Chinese users every day—it will force the platforms to dramatically increase the number of people they employ to carry out censorship.

On Weibo, the popular Twitter-like service, such stricter control measures are currently applied only to accounts that have violated content censorship rules before, or when there’s an ongoing heated discussion about a sensitive topic.
The 2017 version limited such actions to “comments under news information,” so it didn’t need to be applied universally. But the new update takes out that restriction.

On social media, several Chinese users are concerned that this implies the practice can be extended to cover each and every comment online. Under one Weibo post about the change, the most liked comment says, “Is this restriction necessary? If only there’s a guarantee it won’t be abused.”

It’s unlikely Beijing will go so far to enforce blanket pre-publish censorship, but reports says the revisions are more likely intended to force platforms to take more responsibility in moderating the comments section, which has traditionally been ignored.

Whether there is a pre-publish censorship system in place can determine where online social protests break out. In April, a video about the Shanghai covid lockdown went viral on WeChat Channels but not Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok—partly because the latter platform reviews every video before it’s published, while the former didn’t at the time.

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The controller is currently looking for public comments on the proposed amendments until July 1, 2022, and they may not produce results for a long time. Until further notice, conversations about how rigorously they will be authorized are just speculative. In any case, China is recognizing the Great Firewall’s escape clauses and updating its regulations to represent them.

The progressions will also extend who can edit online comments. CAC presently asks that platforms share the force of editing comments with content creators — in Chinese web dialect, “public accounts regulators.”

Currently, government-affiliated accounts are already empowered to do this on sites like Weibo. If this revision becomes law, creators will also become part of the censorship machine, responsible for identifying “illegal or negative” content and reporting it.

“Although China’s internet is one of the most censored in the world, there is still some space for discussing sensitive topics. People can play a clever cat-and-mouse game with censors and make creative adjustments once posts are censored,” as per William Nee, research and advocacy coordinator at Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

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