China tightens oversight of online news services

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

It also provides clearer definitions of which media would require licences for distributing news.

China's President Xi had previous year called for increased regulation of China's Internet, with the CAC ordering major online companies including Tencent Holdings - which runs top social networks such as WeChat and QQ - to stop original news reporting.

The number of Chinese internet users increased by 43 million in 2016, prompting the government to increase scrutiny of online news.

The new rules will apply to coverage of politics, economics, military and diplomacy in articles published on blogs, websites, forums, search engines, social media sites and other online news platforms.

Qiao Mu, an independent media studies scholar and former professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said that the regulations seemed meant to "strike fear" into commercial media companies such as internet behemoth Tencent, which will stand to lose their licenses should they break the rules. "It's not only to ideologically control information, but also to control the source of the information". The country's leaders constantly try to block material considered subversive.

Existing online censorship tends to be more reactive - scrubbing items off microblogs and news sites after publication rather than dictating rules on ownership and funding.

The new rules, as listed on the CAC's website, go into effect on June 1st.

Qiao said three of China's biggest internet companies - Baidu, Tencent, and NetEase - could be affected.

How much information gets filtered out will be determined by how forcefully agencies including the Cybersecurity Administration enforce the new rules, said Zhan Jiang with the Department of International Journalism and Communication at Beijing Foreign Studies University. Beijing adopted a cyber security law past year that overseas critics say could shut foreign businesses out of various sectors in China.

It said that platform operators should protect the privacy of users.

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