Beijing shuts down 110,000 harmful social media accounts

By Leng Shumei Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/26 23:03:40

More local governments could follow practices to regulate social media

A visitor takes photos of a screen monitoring the internet during an exhibition on cyber security in Shanghai in September 2017. Photo: VCG

Beijing has shut down 110,000 social media accounts for spreading harmful information in line with China's enhanced efforts to "cleanse the country's cyber environment."

Some 496,000 articles had also been removed as of December 18 after Beijing's cyberspace affairs office met with various social media platforms located in the city, according to a statement released on Tuesday on the office's WeChat account.

The office has talked with Sina Weibo, Baidu, as well as WeChat developer Tencent, guiding these platforms to follow laws and regulations and strengthen the management of social media accounts through the completion and implementation of content-auditing mechanisms.

The office did not give any names of the accounts that were shut down but said that it focused on eight specific kinds of content including those that distort national policy, contain false information and disturb public order.

Beijing's move indicates that local governments' efforts to manage social media will be enhanced in China and such "clean campaigns" would become common practice at the local level, Wang Sixin, a professor at the Communication University of China, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Wang noted that more local governments will follow in Beijing's footsteps like South China's Guangdong Province and East China's Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces that are advanced in network development.

Especially in consideration of the upcoming winter holidays, when young people will spend much more time surfing the internet, it is necessary to create a healthy network environment for them, Wang stressed.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said that it had punished more than 9,800 we-media accounts popular on WeChat, Weibo or news portals such as Toutiao in an October campaign to regulate social media, according to a statement on the CAC website released on November 12.

These accounts were found to spread harmful, false or pornographic information and create malicious marketing, which seriously violated Chinese law and damaged cyber space, read the statement.

The CAC said that social media accounts should not be immune from the law, urging social media platforms to thoroughly audit and strictly manage them.

WeChat released a statement on November 12, pledging to strengthen self-censorship over pornographic and vulgar content, rumors and plagiarism on the platform.

Social media platforms have been used by some people in recent years to get attention, Fang Binxing, an expert on network information security at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"They do not care about what information they are spreading or how the information will affect others, they only want to attract public attention and make money," Fang said.

Wang echoed Fang, noting that although China has laid out many regulations on social media management, few social media platforms have taken the governance seriously.

Global challenge

Fang pointed out that cyberspace management is actually a global issue concerning many countries beyond China.

Fang cited the example of US social media giant Facebook, noting that the company has established a detailed mechanism to deal with accounts violating regulations.

Facebook announced a partnership with the French government which allows the latter to "embed" representatives within the company to examine how it combats online hate speech, NBC News reported on November 13.

Twitter also established the Twitter Trust & Safety Council, working with 40 organizations and experts from 13 regions to deal with posts concerning various issues such as violence and the protection of minors. 


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