China Tightens Control of Online Video, Book Publishing

HONG KONG – Chinese authorities have announced new controls on the posting of content to online video sites. Separately, there is to be additional scrutiny of Chinese-language book publishing.

The State General Administration of Press Publications, Radio, Film and Television, the country’s media regulator, has said that content creators posting ‘micro-movies’ to online video site must register and use real names. If posting is by a company, a production and business operation license must first be obtained.

The YouTube-like video sites, such as Youku and Tudou, must keep records of all uploaded content and be prepared to remove videos if they are deemed to breach standards.

The SGAPPRFT said that the move is intended to limit sexual or gratuitously violent content, but inevitably it can also be interpreted as a limit on freedom of expression and a limit on political dissent.

China previously announced similar real name identification for users of social media such as Sina Weibo, the country’s enormously popular equivalent of Twitter, in 2011. But it is not clear that the requirements have had much impact. South Korea, with a population of 40 million, compared with China’s 600 million Internet users, was the first country in Asia to require real name use. It introduced the policy after cyber bullying was linked to the suicide of a number of celebrities.

It has also emerged that Chinese authorities last month ordered stricter controls of books and magazines from Hong Kong and Taiwan. The intention is to prevent vulgar and politically harmful content, though the move is also seen as means of keeping politically uncomfortable material out of sight. Newspapers, which operate under separate Hong Kong law and are largely free of direct censorship, are particularly active in reporting of mainland China corruption cases.

The new rules came to light after a number of books full of predictions for the new year written by Hong Kong ‘fung shui’ masters were rejected. Although fung shui is widely practiced, China’s ruling Communist Party regards it as superstitious.

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