China introduced a sweeping new law that bans people from posting all negative content online, and it could be used to suppress news of the coronavirus
- China rolled out a substantial new law which effectively means people can only post positive content about the country online.
- The Provisions on the Governance of the Online Information Content Ecosystem came into effect on Sunday. It was first announced last December.
- "Illegal" online posts now include "dissemination of rumors," "disrupting economic or social order," and anything "destroying national unity."
- The conditions are "distressingly vague and easily abused," the China Law Translate project said.
- The new law could now be used to suppress news about the coronavirus. China has already censored details about the outbreak from its citizens, and arrested and disappeared multiple whistleblowers.
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China has enforced a new law which effectively only lets people post "positive" content to the internet, amid dissent over the coronavirus outbreak.The Provisions on the Governance of the Online Information Content Ecosystem, which was announced December 15, came into effect on Sunday. Advertisement
The laws are designed to "create a positive online ecosystem ... to preserve national security and the public interest," the government document said.
Xinhua via REUTERS
Though the new law contains conditions borrowed from existing national-security laws, it also contains new conditions that are "distressingly vague and easily abused," Daum said.According to the new law:
- "Illegal" content includes the "dissemination of rumors," "disrupting economic or social order," "subverting the national regime," and "destroying national unity."
- "Negative" content includes "sensationalizing headlines" and any "other content with a negative impact to the online information ecosystem."
- "Encouraged" content includes "spreading and explaining Party doctrine," "spreading economic and social achievement" and "other positive and wholesome content."
Chinese citizens criticized the new law on social media, and a hashtag relating to the law was viewed more than three million times on Monday alone, The Guardian reported.
"In the future there will be only good news, and no bad news," one person said, according to the newspaper."They only want us to see what they want us to see, and hear what they want us to hear. This is basically the internet version of social policing," said another.Advertisement
China's government and tech companies have long been known to distort data and enforce strict censorship on what its citizens can see, and the new law comes as China scrambles to suppress criticism amid a national emergency over the coronavirus outbreak.Criticism about the Chinese government is rare to see on social media, as critical posts are often quickly removed and banned, and the people behind them censured.Advertisement
At least five prominent medical experts or journalists - including whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang - have been disappeared, arrested, or silenced after speaking out about the outbreak.
Li died of the coronavirus, and Chinese citizens marked his death by calling for an end to censorship with three viral hashtags: "The Wuhan government owes Li Wenliang an apology," "I want freedom of speech," and "We want freedom of speech." All these messages were eventually censored from social media sites like Weibo.Reuters China correspondent Cate Cadell tweeted that several people she had spoken with reported being tracked by Chinese authorities for posting information about sick relatives or friends on social media.Advertisement
STR/AFP via Getty Images
China's internet censorship also extends beyond government criticism. Authorities have in recent weeks also banned some feminist and LGBT content online, The Guardian said.
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