New rules released last week by the industry group China Netcasting Services Group are expected to lead to more explicit censorship of short videos as online platforms distributing that type of media are growing in popularity. The rules require platforms to increase censorship and vet all content before posting it, and also include 100 categories of content that are expressly forbidden. At The Wall Street Journal, Yoko Kubota reports:
Many of the prohibitions build on previously forbidden areas for online videos and programs, such as leaking national secrets. They also ban the potentially harmful—such as content that promotes suicide—and the less evidently so: videos about foot fetishes and one-night stands, for example.
The broad prohibitions are likely to raise operating costs for the dominant short-video platforms offered by the highly valued startup Beijing Bytedance Technology Co. and Beijing Kuaishou Technology Co. that are a boisterous, fast-growing part of China’s mobile internet but vex the authoritarian government.
[…] Authorities are trying to respond to the faster speed and ease with which messages and memes are spreading online, said Ben Cavender, a senior analyst at China Market Research Group. For the Chinese government, “short video platforms are worrisome because the content is fluid, can be very sticky and get a lot of viewership fast,” he said.
[…] The new rules also tackle the evolving technology used in making short videos, especially GIFs, the rapidly looping image clips; making national symbols or leaders appear to be trembling, for example, is prohibited. [Source]
China Law Translate has translated the rules in full, including the 100 extremely specific content categories included:
There's a specific prohibition on wearing apparel with leaders faces on it, then wiggling or folding it to make the faces have strange expressions.
— China Law Translate (@ChinaLawTransl8) January 17, 2019
At China Media Project, David Bandurski situates the newly released industry rules into the “growing brazenness” of censorship that characterizes the Xi Jinping era:
A pair of binding documents released this past week by the China Netcasting Services Association (中国网络视听节目服务协会) are a great case in point. They openly set out the “content review” standards expected of companies providing online video services, including the removal of content that “attacks on our country’s political or legal systems”, and “content that damages the national image.” One of the documents even specifies that companies expand their internal censorship teams as business grows and changes, and that they keep at least one “content review” employee on staff for every 1,000 new videos posted to their platform each day.
Make no mistake, censorship is deeply imbedded in China’s digital media industry, so that every company must internally balance the demands and costs of political content control and commercial profitability. [Source]
The new rules from the China Netcasting Services Group come after top media regulator the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television publicly ordered two popular online media platforms to stop allowing new users to upload videos in April, and months after after a live-streamer was detained for “insulting” the national anthem amid a long-running crackdown on live-streaming video.