China shackles instant messaging on news

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has queried the aim of the Chinese authority to restrain peopale’s rights to use instant messaging services (IMS) to disseminate news.

The State Internet Information Office of China passed a new set of rules on August 7 requiring all IMS users to provide their real name to register an account and sign agreements with service providers to abide “Seven Bottom Lines”. Effectively, this means users will have to abide by laws and regulations, which uphold the socialist system and national interests among other things. The rules further restrain people’s right to use the public platform to post pieces of news reports.

The spokesperson of the State Internet Information Office said the establishment of the new rules was needed because "a few people are using the platforms to disseminate information related to terrorism, violence and pornography as well as slander and rumors.”

China has 5.8 million mobile phone accounts with IMS mobile apps, such as WeChat. The new rules take immediate effect and include all WeChat users, specifically those using the public platform to post messages or news reports.

The IFJ said “This move is an old trick and clearly follows the “Clean Up Cyberspace” campaign initiated by Xi Jinping , President of China, after the election of the Politburo Political Committee. In 2012, all microblog weibo users were force to give their real names to register accounts. As a result, the number of weibo accounts decreased.”

“There is a double standard around IMS in China. It’s alright for the bureau, departmental and government institutions to have instant messaging for messaging and propaganda, but it is certainly not OK for ordinary people to use the service to disseminate opinion and free speech.”

The IFJ says people’s right to freedom of speech, particularly that of journalists, should be defended in all areas – including new technologies such as IMS.

“We strongly oppose these unjust administrative rules. Clearly people’s power to exercise their rights has been suppressed in the name of a so-called “good cause”. The power is totally unbalanced.”