China launches new internet cleanup campaign; more websites
JUNE 12, 2019 / 4:52 AM
BEIJING (Reuters) – China has launched a campaign to clean up its
internet, state media said on Wednesday, amid a fresh wave of apparent
censorship by authorities that has blocked more foreign media websites
and shut down domestic accounts on social media.
The “rectification” effort was launched in May by the cyberspace
administration, the information technology ministry, the public
security bureau and the markets regulator and will run until the end
of the year, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The campaign will punish and expose websites for “illegal and
criminal actions”, failing to “fulfill their obligation” to take
safety measures or the theft of personal information, it added.
The campaign follows a series of shutdowns and blockages of
certain websites and social media accounts.
Several foreign media beyond Beijing’s control, such as the
Washington Post and The Guardian, have not been accessible online
since last weekend, adding to a list of blocked sites that includes
Online Chinese financial news publication Wallstreetcn.com said on
Monday it took its website and mobile app offline at the authorities’
request, but gave no details of the rules it may have broken.
Social media accounts ranging from those publishing politically
sensitive material to financial news have also been shut.
Authorities said in November they shut 9,800 accounts of news
providers deemed to be posting sensational, vulgar or politically
The Chinese internet regulator’s Shanghai office said in a
statement on Wednesday that it and the markets regulator’s Shanghai
office summoned representatives from Baidu Inc and criticized the firm
for unethical advertising using vulgar content or overly sensational
The authorities ordered the search engine operator to rectify its
advertising business to eliminate such practices, according to the
statement, which quoted a Baidu representative as saying the firm
would make necessary changes.
When asked for comment, a Baidu representative referred to the
remarks in the statement without commenting further.
In recent years, China has regularly campaigned to police its
internet, shutting down websites, social media accounts and mobile apps.
“The cleaning drives are not purely political. Many, possibly
even most, of those accounts were probably spam, porn or other types
of content that the platforms have made clear are undesirable and
unwelcome,” said Fergus Ryan, an analyst with the Australian
Strategic Policy Institute.
“The problem is that in among those legitimate removals are
accounts that are removed for political reasons.”
Shimin Fang, a popular science writer who drew public scrutiny in
China for critical comments about telecommunications giant Huawei
Technologies Co, said he found out on Tuesday all of his Chinese
social media accounts had been taken down.
Fang, who lives in the United States, said he did not know what
had happened until some readers told him they could no longer find his
postings and that the platform operators would not tell him why his
accounts were shut down.
“My guess is that from now on any influential self-media accounts
will not be allowed to exist, no matter (if) they are political or
not,” Fang told Reuters in an email.
The term “self-media” is mostly used on Chinese social media to
describe independent news accounts that produce original content but
are not officially registered with the authorities.
“The Chinese internet winter is coming,” Fang said.
Reporting by Huizhong Wu; Additional reporting by Josh Horwitz in
Shanghai; Editing by Se Young Lee, Clarence Fernandez and Frances