Yes I know. I've been following all the coverage of China's latest effort to control online news. I was offline for most of yesterday and this morning, and am taking my time to go over all the coverage, read the actual regulations, look at how the Chinese media is reporting it, talk to some people, and come up with something more useful and nuanced than the kneejerk reaction of: "Omigod! The Chinese CENSORING AND CONTROLLING THE INTERNET!!! How evil!!" Not that I think it's a good thing, and it's something I think we should push U.S. tech companies not to support. But let's just say I am not shocked and stunned that these regulations came out. People inside China who do internet-content related business I've spoken to so far are not particularly excited or freaked out by these regulations. This is the reality they have always lived with. It's not fun but they have no choice and won't have a choice any time soon. So I'd like to take a closer look at how the government is seeking to control online news and information, what's succeeding and what isn't, and how people in China are reacting to it and perhaps adjusting. A long, considered, non-hasty blog post is forthcoming when it gets done, in between the stuff I need to do today for Global Voices and other ongoing projects.
Meanwhile, check out the unfolding analysis on China Digital Times, where Sophie Beach writes:
It is worth noting that these new regulations include two additional categories of forbidden content compared with previously released regulations: 1) information inciting illegal assemblies, demonstrations, marches, or gatherings to disturb social order and 2) information released in the name of "illegal civil organizations." This is an apparent attempt to target the capacity to organize online.
"You shall not spread rumours", "You shall not damage state security”, “You shall not destroy the country’s reputation”. There are just three of the 11 commandments ordered by Beijing, on 25 September, aimed at bloggers and websites managers.
Reporters Without Borders expressed concern at this latest turn of the screw in an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression.
"The Chinese authorities never seem to let up on their desire to regulate the Web and their determination to control information available on it ever more tightly,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“These new rules, announced with a fanfare by the official media, are certainly more intended to frighten Internet-users than to codify the use of the Net,” it said. “In fact there is nothing really new in these 11 commandments, which simply repeat that the party has the monopoly of the dissemination of information and that the media’s task is not to be objective but to relay state propaganda.
“These moves to filter the Internet are nevertheless a sign that the Internet frightens those in power, in particular during a period of ever greater social unrest. It’s noticeable that the only new elements in the text relate to banning the calling of strikes or gatherings though the Net,” it said.
The new rules, ordered by the state council information bureau and ministry of industry and information, are aimed at bringing into line all previous such edicts. According to the Chinese daily Beijing news (thebeijingnews.com), it contains 11 subjects forbidden to online editors.
They are banned from putting out news that :
violates the basic principles of the Chinese constitution :
endangers national security, leaks national secrets, seeks to overthrow the government, endangers the unification of the country ;
destroys the country’s reputation and benefits ;
arouses national feelings of hatred, racism, and endangers racial unification ;
violates national policies on religion, promotes the propaganda of sects and superstition ; [Reporters Without Borders note : More than 30 members of the spiritual Falungong movement are currently behind bars for posting news on the Internet]
diffuses rumours, endangers public order and creates social uncertainty ;
diffuses information that is pornographic, violent, terrorist or linked to gambling ;
libels or harms people’s reputation, violates people’s legal rights ;
includes illegal information bounded by law and administrative rules.
Two completely new bans have been added to the nine rules above :
It is forbidden to encourage illegal gatherings, strikes, etc to create public disorder ;
It is forbidden to organise activities under illegal social associations or organisations.
Websites that break these new rules will be shut down and those running them will have to pay a fine that could reach 30,000 yuans (3,000 euros).
Reporters Without Borders points out that 62 people are currently imprisoned in China for having posted articles on the Internet that the authorities deemed to be “subversive”.