Freedom of expression targeted with internet crackdown in China

The International Federation of Journalists criticises the latest guidelines from the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) on comment sections of media outlets that were released on August 25, 2017.According to the new CAC guidelines, people are not prevented from expressing their opinions in the comment sections of news articles and reports. In addition, all users must use their full name before they register to post comments and internet providers must now monitor and vet all posts before they go online. Any comments or opinions that refer to the unification of China, disseminate rumours and false information, or refer to ending Socialism must be immediately deleted. The guidelines did not outline punishment for those who do not follow, however authorities will not struggle to find those who do not follow the guidelines as China has already employed a real name registration system for internet usage. The guideline did refer to the establishment of a blacklist for internet service providers, if they violate the guidelines.The CAC guidelines also state that website administrators are prohibited from ‘publishing, forwarding and deleting messages’.With the release of the guidelines, CAC also said that other departments are considering a new set of regulations regarding personal information security.Several reports were published about the new guidelines, but all reports that included critical commentary were removed.The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “The Government of China continues to use censorship as a tool to control and stifle freedom of expression across the country. The IFJ strongly criticises the latest CAC guidelines and the implications they will have on freedom of expression in China. The government continues to burden internet service providers with new rules and procedures to monitor the online space, on behalf of the government.”We urge all internet service providers and administrators to voice their concerns with the latest guidelines to the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC).

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