- China's internet regulator announced it will be monitoring five types of online content during the coming festive period.
- It said it will target content — like soft pornography, violence, and suicide — that affects social mores.
- The guidelines come as Beijing cracks down on online content that it says could harm social and political stability.
With China set to kick off Chinese New Year and the Winter Olympics next week, Beijing is telling its nearly one billion internet users — and millions of companies — how they should behave online during this period.
In a statement in Chinese on Tuesday, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said it was launching a month-long initiative to regulate online content, with a focus on five areas. The areas of focus span from contemporary celebrity gossip and age-old feudal superstitions to issues surrounding soft pornography, suicide, and violence.
The internet regulator also reminded provincial authorities to strengthen enforcement so they can "foster a civilized, healthy, and festive environment for public discourse online during Chinese New Year."
Chinese New Year, which kicks off on January 31 this year, is the most important traditional festival to the Chinese. Traditional celebrations last for up to fifteen days and involve honoring the dead and one's ancestors at the start of the festival. Days of feasting follow, along with setting off fireworks and giving "red packets" full of cash to children and the elderly for good luck.
The Chinese also believe that one's behavior during this time will have implications on their luck for the rest of the year. As such, during the festive period, they avoid doing things that may seem inauspicious, including sweeping one's home (which would "sweep your luck away") or wearing dark-colored clothing.
This year's festivities are also punctuated by another major event — the Winter Olympics in Beijing, which are slated commence on February 4.
The CAC's warning on Tuesday harks back to Beijing's crackdowns on online behavior and activity to safeguard social and political stability.
Here are the five areas the CAC said it will be focusing on.
1. Clamping down on cyberbullying and online fraud
Aggressive behaviors such as online vigilantism (a phenomenon called "human flesh search engine"), instigating confrontation online, misleading public opinion, engaging in online fraud through sending digital red packets or promising free deliveries online, must be curbed, wrote the CAC.
2. Continuing the fight against celebrity worship and cleaning up celebrity scandals
Celebrity worship has been of concern to Chinese authorities lately, particularly with the rise of "fan circles," or combative fan clubs. In 2021, the CAC said China's "unhealthy" online celebrity culture is affecting minors' mental health. During Chinese New Year, it wants authorities to "promptly clean up information" on celebrity scandals.
3. Curbing excessive displays of wealth and superstitious beliefs online
The CAC wants to stem the spread of "bad internet culture" by taking down content that worships wealth and money or promotes overeating. It also wants to take down content that promotes "feudal superstitions," such as fortune telling or online divination.
4. Protecting kids from soft porn, suicide, and too much time spent online
Profiting off of online celebrity children is a strict no-no, as is having minors appearing in live broadcasts, the CAC said. Authorities said they will be keeping an eye on apps and programs popular with children so they are not exposed to content that touches on soft pornography, suicide, or violence. The CAC also wants to restrict how much time children spend online. Tech giant Tencent has already issued guidelines to young gamers on how much game time they can have during this period.
5. Monitoring news outlets' front pages and push notifications
Authorities must step up surveillance of website landing pages so that obscenities, vulgarities, violence, and "horrifying messages" are weeded out, said the CAC. The regulator said special focus must given to trending topics, push notifications, and pages that host important news updates.
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