New Rules Limit User-Generated Content

Following new regulations that require websites to acquire special licenses before content live, Chinese authorities are now issuing new rules limiting the posting of original multimedia content online. Benjamin Haas of The Guardian reports:

The new regulations barred public accounts from posting “user-generated audio or video”, often one of the few sources of information outside state media articles relaying the government’s version of events.

[…] China’s two largest social media platforms were called out by name in the new rules, with the majority of videos shared on the Twitter-like Sina and WhatsApp meets Facebook .

“Weibo, WeChat and other online social media are not allowed to disseminate user-generated audio or video programs about current events,” said the notice from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. Social media companies must “strengthen management” of videos, a common euphemism for censorship.

“It’s likely to weed out smaller players,” said Duncan Clark, founder of investment advisory firm BDA China, which specialises in the Chinese internet. “The government prefers to have concentration on larger sites, where it has greater sway. [Source]

China Law Translate has posted the official press release from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television () announcing the new regulations, which further explain what content will be restricted. According to their translation, the notice will:

* Require a special permit and other credentials for transmission of audio-visual materials on weibo and public Weixin (WeChat) accounts and other social media. […]
* Require that movies or television programs spread on social media have a “Public Film Screening Permit” or “Television Show Distribution Permit”.
* Clarify that AV materials spread on social media must comply with regular internet programming regulations. This includes web shows, web movies, news programs, documentaries, special features, and variety shows that are transmitted through social media.
* Current events news programming produced and uploaded by the public must not be transmitted at all.
* Require a special permit and other credentials for transmission of audio-visual materials on weibo and public Weixin (WeChat) accounts and other social media.
* Clarify that AV materials spread on social media must comply with regular internet programming regulations. This includes web shows, web movies, news programs, documentaries, special features, and variety shows that are transmitted through social media.
* Current events news programming produced and uploaded by the public must not be transmitted at all. [Source]

User-generated content was also targeted in the recent detention of Liu Feiyue and Huang Qi, both editors of human rights-focused citizen journalism websites. A widespread tightening of regulation over “illegal” internet content includes politically unpalatable websites like theirs, as well as and other “harmful” content. In the past eight months, authorities have closed thousands of websites for hosting “erotic or obscene” content, according to a report by Christian Shepherd for Reuters:

The office said 2,500 websites were prosecuted or shut down and more than 3 million “harmful” posts were deleted in eight months up to December during a drive to “purify” the internet in China and protect youth, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The government has tightening its grip on Chinese cyberspace in recent months, in particular placing new restrictions on the fast-growing live-streaming industry.

The state has a zero-tolerance approach to what it considers lewd, smutty or illegal content and has in past crackdowns removed tens of thousands of websites in a single year. [Source]

In September, a website CEO was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for “distributing obscene materials for personal gain,” related to the distribution of porn through video-streaming and torrent downloads via his site Kuaibo. Read more about the government crackdown on sexually explicit content in a Sixth Tone series on “Erotic China.”