Self-Censorship in China Continues, Extends to Mobile Apps

We already know about censorship and propaganda pandemonium in China. The Great Firewall of China prohibits users from browsing the Internet freely, the 50c-party fabricates social media posts for strategic distraction[1] and the Internet police (wang-luo-guan-li-yuan) removes harsh criticisms about the Chinese government.

As a result of longtime Internet and media censorship, Chinese citizens have become docile and accepting of censorship[2]. In January 2015, WeChat, one of the most popular messaging apps and social networks in China, shut down 133 accounts for spreading fabricated information[3]. Not Long after that, WeChat set 10 rules for posting to the app’s news feed (peng-you-quan, Moments in English) to regulate its 468 million monthly active users[4].

On an everyday basis, many companies and organizations refrain from contradicting the government due to concerns such as the revocation of operating license or the fear of administrative punishment. For citizens, there are too many interests at stake to post criticism online since ISPs and ICPs (Internet Content Providers) have eliminated online anonymity. Most social network platforms require real identity (most commonly cell phone number) to sign up. One can easily lose his/her job or be held in custody because of unfavorable comments posted on these networks. As a result, censorship has evolved to self-censorship in China. Online journalists regularly practice self-censorship, and Chinese citizens are censoring themselves and purifying what they say on the Internet to avoid any negative consequences.

China has the world’s most sophisticated apparatus for censoring, monitoring and manipulating online content. Self-censorship is one of the worst outcomes, because criticism of censorship will be censored automatically and prohibit further thoughts on the rightfulness of censorship. Recent developments show censorship is extending to mobile apps now, as well.

On June 28, the Cyberspace Administrative of China issued new regulations that apply to all mobile app providers. This means app stores and providers must establish the identity of users and keep user logs, while monitoring and reporting posts that contain banned content. Any app developer must follow these regulations and stay in the limits allowed by the Chinese government if they want to enter the market. This is an alarming development because it effects not only app providers in China, but also providers overseas. It further illustrates that censorship will only get more persuasive and stricter.

Censorship and self-censorship are a threat to Internet freedom. Access to an restricted Internet is imperative for everyone.

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