The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is scheduled to begin its 19th national congress on October 18. As China’s top leadership reshuffle nears, the government is determined to control the internet as tightly as possible. Although numerous regulations on the internet have been released recently, the government believes that the best way to regulate is via self-censorship. On September 7, detailed rules on chat groups and public online accounts were put forward, instructing Chinese netizens on how conduct self-censorship.
China’s top internet censor , the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), issued two new rules — “Management Regulations on Online Public Accounts” and “Management Regulations on Internet Groups”– in order to “promote the healthy and orderly development of online community” and “uphold the socialist core values.”
According to CAC, “online public accounts” refers to those who provide information including text, picture, audio and video to the public through any registered online platform and “internet groups” refers to any chat groups online, on social media, or on instant messaging apps.
The new rules, which take effect on October 8, demand that all group administrators and owners of public accounts regulate the conduct of their group members and the information posted in groups accordingly. “Whoever owns the chat group should be responsible, and whoever manages the chat group should be responsible,” said the CAC.
As The Diplomat has been following for months, China has systematically increased online control since Xi took office: Banning VPNs and independent multimedia content, demanding international publishing houses remove specific content, punishing China’s top three internet giants for failing to manage their online platform properly, to name just a few.
On August 25, CAC announced new rules to manage internet forums and communities, forbidding unidentified netizens from posting anything on internet platforms.
What’s new this time is the focus on individuals. In past regulations, the main focus has been on the large internet companies that provide the platforms.
Another noteworthy point is that each account on Weibo could also be arguably regarded as “public online account,” since Weibo provides information to the public. Theoretically, each and every Weibo owner should be “responsible” for all the comments under their posts.
In case the netizens couldn’t get the essence, Gaofei Wang, the CEO at Weibo Corporation, explained on Weibo under his account, “Laiquzhijian”:
The users should instantly manage the comments, reposts, and other interaction of their own accounts. The providers of the online platforms could restrict or cancel the function of commenting of those users who fail to properly manage their accounts… You manage your comments; the platform will not help you manage, but shut down your commenting function.
It seems that at least to some Chinese online companies, the new self-censorship rules are a small relief, since the companies don’t need to take the responsibility to micro-manage anymore.