In something that anyone who has ever tried to report news from China must have seen coming from a mile away, China has now banned Internet news from the biggest suppliers of such news. Internet news portals are shutting down, and the remaining companies will face tighter regulations on what they can publish.
China’s biggest Internet portals, including Sohu, NetEase, Sina, Tencent, and others will only be permitted to publish news that is already officially approved by the government, and supplied by the government-controlled new services. If they choose not to listen, they face severe financial penalties. This means any online news in China will come from a limited pool of government-friendly, handpicked articles.
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The goal with only allowing pre-selected news, as is the goal with all of the censorship measures in China, is to limit people’s access to information, and only allow information that is in accordance with government directives. The ultimate goal is to continue an authoritarian level of control by making sure people don’t have any ideas on their minds that could introduce thoughts that threaten the power of the Communist Party.
Mind control is one of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) biggest weapons in subduing the population. Unwavering obedience to authority is what makes the power structure in China thrive. The multitude of ideas accessible online has the potential to disrupt the control mechanism set in place by the Communist Party, so these new control measures and policies are meant for stricter enforcement than those already in place.
With China’s booming online population, the potential to disseminate information across a huge population is scary to CCP officials.
Bloomberg reports on what the crackdown means in light of China’s huge Internet portals, writing:
“China’s online giants serve content, games and news to hundreds of millions of people across the country — Tencent’s QQ and WeChat alone host more than a billion users, combined. Online news services however have always operated in a regulatory gray area.
“They’re not authorized to provide original content and technically aren’t allowed to hire reporters or editors. Still, outlets have recently published investigative stories on official corruption cases, and covered sensitive social issues from demonstrations to human rights.
“For instance, NetEase ran a feature in April after the Party announced an investigation into a senior Hebei provincial official, Zhang Yue. The story was later removed from the Internet.”
Instead of removing critical stories after the fact, China now won’t take any chances on allowing original reporting in the first place. This means information that the government doesn’t want the citizenry to know about is plucked out and sifted from an even higher level of government before getting hand fed to media outlets for publication.
The Cyberspace Administration of China, the responsible government agency, will make sure China’s Internet companies comply. Chinese citizens will have to look for sources based outside China for the full scope of news and opinions, and that often requires ways to circumvent China’s gamut of online censorship.
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According to CNBC, China does not want the media to escape its watchful eyes during stories that need or demand quick updates, writing:
“…the Chinese state has hardened an already strong-armed approach to blogs and other forms of new media, once heralded as a democratizing force challenging the party’s monopoly on information during fast-moving stories.”
As early as 2005, it has been illegal to hire reporters and publish news in China from sources not connected to the government, but the rule wasn’t systematically regulated, so at certain times news considered subversive to the CCP still managed to slip through. The motivation for the recent move is believed to come from coverage of the flooding in northern China.
Powerful images circulated on media of dead bodies and environmental destruction, instead of the government-led narrative of the army coming in and saving the day.
The new measures come amidst stronger demand from media portals to supply up-to-the-minute news. Websites run by China’s major Internet players have already been shut down and fined as the enforcement of the policies are continually implemented.