July 12, 2012

Shocker: China Wants To Censor The Internet

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Here´s another story for the sarcastically-titled “Shocker“¦” file: China´s communist government is taking steps to further censor content shared on the web.

China´s broadcasting and internet regulators now require any Internet video provider must prescreen every video before posting it online. The State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) announced these new censorship rules this week as they answered questions from reporters. In their report, the SARFT said they expected these video-providers to self-censor their content, removing any material which contains what they deem to be inappropriate material.

“In recent years, the rapid development of network drama, micro film, network audio and video programs as an emerging network culture formats, spiritual and cultural life and enrich the people, provides a new channel for people to participate in cultural construction,” says the report.

However, some programs appear vulgar content, poor style, rendering the problem of violence, pornography, and some swearing Lianpian, some deliberately show the scene of the vulgar, some show no Zheshi action and scenes of bloody violence, and so on.

The SARFT report did not offer many specifics as to what would be blocked, but did say they´d offer guidance. According to The Register, who uncovered these new censorship regulations, the Chinese government likely stayed away from issuing specifics to give them more room to maneuver when they enforce these regulations.

The SARFT report says these new regulations come as a response from calls in both the industry and public sectors to clamp down on “vulgar content,” and scenes of “bloody violence” to “protect young people's physical and mental health in accordance with the law”.

It´s well understood that China has no problems with censoring content it deems as inappropriate. As such, several popular films, television shows and even websites, such as YouTube, have been banned from the communist country. The country depends on the ISPs to enforce these regulations and rid the Chinese Internet from all such “offensive” content.

Though these restrictions may seem new on the surface, some web video providers are saying that not much will change in what is and what isn´t allowed to be viewed in China. A spokeswoman for China´s most popular online video provider, Youku, said her company will likely not be affected by these new regulations. According to her, Youku already makes use of hundreds of pre-screeners who ensure that nothing inappropriate makes its way onto their servers. "Nothing with vulgar or violent materials will pass," said the spokeswoman, who did not give her name because she is not authorized to speak on the record.

"Political speech? If it is anti-party and anti-society, it definitely will not pass. No website will allow such content."

Smaller websites, however, could feel the pinch from these regulations. With such ambiguous terms, the SARFT could crack down on any site they feel violate the censors. As such, smaller websites, with fewer resources, could fall under the weight of these standards. According to blogger David Bandurski, "The regulations explicitly hold distributors of online video programming responsible for violations of propaganda discipline.

"It remains to be seen how SARFT intends to enforce these regulations, particularly in the case of user-generated content. Clearly, if followed to the letter, the 'notice' would require massive resources."