China wants a “civilized” internet that displays and promotes Chinese socialist values and will strengthen oversight to make it happen with tools including a rumor debunking mechanism, as outlined in new guidelines issued by China’s Communist Party and the State Council.
The actual guidelines – grandly titled “Opinions on Strengthening the Construction of Network Civilization” – appear not to have been made public. But a report about the opinions by state-run organ Xinhua has been reproduced, verbatim, on a number of Chinese government websites.
Wherever the post appears it states: “The country aims to consolidate the guiding status of Marxism in the ideological cyberspace sphere, foster a common ideology among the whole Party and the Chinese people, and interiorize core socialist values.”
To achieve a correct cyberspace culture, the guidelines dictate the internet’s use as a tool to disseminate information about “the great achievements of [China’s Communist] party in each historical period of revolution, construction, and reform.” The document also calls for a “clear-cut stand against historical nihilism”.
The reports all mention construction of a nationwide online rumor-burying mechanism based on the China Internet Joint Rumor Refusal Platform, a fact-checking service that offers party-approved counterfactuals.
Other provisions of the new guidelines include grading and classifying of professionally run social media accounts, regulating use of internet slang, and encouraging netizens to point out perceived “uncivilized” cyber activity through improved reporting tools and training to help them spot material worthy of being brought to the attention of Chinese authorities.
Beyond a call for government bodies to further control content while reinforcing government-selected aspects of Chinese culture lies an element of corporate duty with an expectation that businesses will self-govern their content. Live-streaming, the infomercials that are currently Chinese e-tailers’ hot new marketing tactic, were mentioned as deserving of attention.
Companies must also take the reins on user agreements and “national security awareness,” and the document mandates a strengthening of the country’s Personal Information Protection Law and Data Security Law.
Issuance of the new Opinions follows the June 2021 crackdown on digitial fan clubs, a recent kid-friendly cleanse of the internet and even a recent edict that effeminate men – male pop singers and/or floppy-fringed actors in designer clothes – should not appear in Chinese media.