Another round of internet censorship

Source: Sup China (9/25/17)
Yet another round of internet censorship

Reuters reports that three of China’s largest tech firms have been fined for not censoring enough sensitive content. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) did not disclose the amount of the fines given to Tencent, Baidu, and Weibo except that they would receive the “maximum penalty” for hosting banned content, including fake news and pornography, as well as content that “incites ethnic tension” and “threatens social order.”Reuters notes that the maximum penalty for any individual in charge of a platform in violation of the rules cited by CAC is 100,000 yuan ($15,110) each.

The fines — largely symbolic, as such sums of money are pocket change for these large corporations — are one result of new cybersecurity regulations that went into effect in May this year. Listen to a Sinica Podcast with Adam Segal for more on China’s tightening grip on cyberspace.

Meanwhile, in other corners of the Chinese internet:

  • The New York Times reports (paywall) that WhatsApp has finally been completely blocked in China, after years of intermittent access. It was the “last of Facebook products to still be available in mainland China,” and its demise is a setback for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has gone to great lengths to try to crack the Chinese market. Technical specialists told the Times that because of WhatsApp’s encryption methods, the censorship may indicate that China’s cyberspace authorities “may have developed specialized software to interfere with such messages.”
  • The Times also describes (paywall) a series of crackdowns on the freedom of speech online in China, including a directive earlier this summer issued by the China Netcasting Services Association banning 68 categories of content.
  • Last week, the People’s Daily criticized (in Chinese) AI-driven news aggregator Toutiao by name, specifically warning of the danger of “information cocoons” (信息茧房 xìnxī jiǎn fáng) — echo chambers — that consumers of overly personalized newsfeeds might get trapped in.
  • Lawfare summarizes and analyzes recent Chinese government moves intended to end anonymity online in an article titled “Shrinking anonymity in Chinese cyberspace.”

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