China unveils new regulations requiring sites to pre-censor all comments

from yeah sure it will work department

As we see more and more Western countries seeking to regulate the internet in order to stifle speech they don’t like, we’ve noted how these efforts seem to be modeled almost directly on how China censors the internet . You might think that would be a reason to run the other way, but too many policymakers now seem to see China’s Great Firewall as a success story to follow. And, now they can have new ideas, because China has released draft revisions to its regulations regarding online comments. And, while some of it is unclear, it appears to include a provision that says services that allow comments must have tools to review every comment before it can be viewed on the site.

Specifically, the draft regulations include this article:

Establish and complete information security systems for review and management, real-time inspection, emergency response and acceptance of reports for postal comments, review the content of the comments of the posts before publicationand quickly discover and address illegal and negative information, and report it to Internet news services.

For fairly obvious reasons, this raises some concerns. As the Tech Review article linked above notes, online comments and other more real-time communications have always been something of a loophole regarding the Great Firewall, as discussions of sensitive topics are often there. breakthroughs, even if they are removed only later. However, this new rule seems to put in place a system to block even that.

Autonomous regulations on comments are needed because their large number makes them difficult to censor as rigorously as other content, such as articles or videos, says Eric Liu, a former Weibo censor who is currently studying Chinese censorship at the China Digital Times.

“One thing everyone in the censorship industry knows is that no one pays attention to replies and bulleted discussions. They are moderated recklessly, with minimal effort,” Liu says.

But recently, there have been several embarrassing instances where comments under government Weibo accounts have gone rogue, pointing out government lies or dismissing the official narrative. This could be what prompted the update proposed by the regulator.

Tech Review quotes people saying Beijing is unlikely (for now) to force everyone to pre-review every comment (acknowledging that it’s likely impossible), but it will put pressure on sites for them to be much more proactive, and that might force this “feature” to be used on very controversial topics.

It seems a simple reading of the law is that it requires sites to at least develop the functionality to pre-approve all comments if necessary, even if they don’t need to be enabled in permanence.

There are other features in the new regulations, including granting more power to who can block comments, suggesting that content creators themselves will have more power to censor comments in response to their content (rather than to rely on the service’s internal censors to do so).

Additionally, I note that part of these requirements would make Elon Musk and others insist that every user be “verified” even if their identity is not publicly disclosed. As the rules require:

Follow the principle of “registered real names, but whatever you want in advance”, to carry out verification of the credentials of registered users, and shall not provide comment posting services to users whose credentials are registered. identification have not been verified.

So for anyone who insists that all internet commenters have credentials handy, in case they are needed, just know that you are following in the footsteps of the Chinese censors.

And, of course, the new regulations also seek to tie that verified identity to China’s infamous social credit scoring system, although amusingly this is framed under privacy protection.

Establish and complete systems for protecting users’ personal information: the processing of users’ personal information must comply with the principles of legality, ownership, necessity, and solvency; disclose the rules for processing personal information: give notice on the purposes and methods of processing personal information, the types of personal information to be processed, the retention period and other similar matters; and obtain the consent of persons in accordance with the law, except as otherwise provided by laws and administrative regulations.

People pushing similar ideas in Europe and the US insist it won’t be abused, but we can look to China – and the fact that many of the proposed regulations we see today come from China’s Great Censorship Firewall. to see where they probably lead.

Filed Under: censorship, China, comments, free speech, real names, social credit, verification