A notice issued yesterday by the Cyberspace Administration of China, the central agency for control of the internet and social media, provides a glimpse not just of the actions being taken now by the authorities to control information about the coronavirus epidemic, but also of the platforms and activities that have threatened the Party’s dominance of information in recent days.
The notice, for example, singles out a number of WeChat public accounts alleged to have “illegally carried out reporting activities,” meaning that they are accused of acting journalistically, pursuing their own information on the epidemic. It orders the removal from app stores of “Pipi Gaoxiao” (皮皮搞笑), a platform for the sharing of short videos, suggesting that material on the platform has “spread panic.”
The notice also says that Sina Weibo, Tencent, ByteDance and other internet companies will now be under “special supervision” (专项督导), which means essentially that the companies operating many of the country’s biggest and most popular internet platforms and services have been put on notice and are subject to much more active supervision and management by the CAC.
Here is a translation of the notice:
In recent days, the Cyberspace Administration of China has, on the basis of reports from the masses, directed local CACs to seriously deal with such information and content as the “Pipi Gaoxiao” (皮皮搞笑) online social platform which has distributed harmful short videos about the coronavirus outbreak, and has spread panic, [ordering them to] remove the app from the app store immediately. Concerning certain products on the Baidu web platform posting information in violation of regulations to users and conducting lax management, and Huxiu and other online platforms illegally engaging in internet news information services in epidemic-related reports and other problems, [the companies] have been called in for discussions in accord with the law. They have been ordered to immediately stop all illegal conduct and to carry out comprehensive and deep rectification, and these relevant online platforms [have been ordered to] close down problem sections (问题栏目). Concerning Sina Weibo, Tencent, ByteDance and other internet companies, special supervision (专项督导) will now be in effect. Concerning [the WeChat public accounts] “Netease Finance” (网易财经), “Sina Weitianxia” (新浪微天下), “Guyu Laboratory” (谷雨实验室), “Jianmeow” (史上最贱喵) and other online accounts that have illegally carried out reporting activities (自采), broadcast untrue information and other problems, they will be handed in a timely manner.
The CAC continues to strengthen its direction of provincial-level CACs, demanding that online platforms strictly carry out their responsibilities [in regard to content controls], and that local CACs actively exercise their management responsibilities, creating a favorable online environment for winning the war for prevention and control of the coronavirus outbreak.