China tightening grip on internet with ‘news staff vetting’

3 May 2017

Image: Anton_Medvedev/Shutterstock

Party-sanctioned editorial staff will soon oversee online news portals and network providers throughout China.

President Xi Jinping’s attempts to gain more and more control over the internet in China are continuing, with new rules over how news is presented online.

This follows revelations this week that the Chinese government is hard at work building its own rival to Wikipedia.

New rules for news staff

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) announced the latest rules, which will be enforced from 1 June, extending current news restrictions to include the need for all services to be managed by party-sanctioned editorial staff.

According to Reuters, the regulations apply to all political, economic, military or diplomatic reports, or opinion articles on blogs, websites, forums, search engines, instant messaging apps and all other platforms that select or edit news and information.

“All such platforms must have editorial staff who are approved by the national or local government internet and information offices, while their workers must get training and reporting credentials from the central government,” according to the report.

The changes are in line with a bid to sync up the rules governing traditional media with the more renegade aspect of online publishing.

Wikipedia rival

As for its own Wikipedia, China will not source information from the general public, but through a select number of scholars from some of the country’s top universities.

The Encyclopaedia of China project will require a lot of human power. It is believed that 20,000 people have been hired to work on it, with the goal of creating 300,000 entries of around 1,000 words each.

The project is being led by the head of the Book and Periodicals Distribution Association of China, Yang Muzhi, in what he describes as a reaction to international pressure to create an online encyclopaedia for “the public and society”.

The state-sponsored effort will generate competition with its own homegrown tech giants, including Baidu, which has already begun its own encyclopaedia project.

Similar moves in Turkey

State influence on the dissemination is as old as states themselves, but the internet has brought several new headaches to the desks of government officials around the world.

The state-led interest into all things comms in the US and the UK is widely known at this stage, but Turkey’s customer-facing attacks are proving to be more eye-catching.

Turkey’s relationship with the internet over the past few years has been strict to say the least, with various online services such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube being blocked on a whim by the country’s government.

The latest avenue closed off by Turkish authorities is Wikipedia.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic