The Chinese government is launching new rules requiring bloggers and online influencers to acquire state credentials in order to publish content on certain topics, including politics, health and economics.
According to The Associated Press, the Cyberspace Administration of China will launch the regulations next week, the latest move to control online content from a country that has been condemned by the U.S. and others in the international community for imposing overreaching censorship on its own citizens.
The AP reports that while users have needed permits to cover topics such as politics and military affairs since at least 2017, the new regulations seek to more strictly enforce the rules, as well as expand them to information relating to health, economics, education and judicial matters.
A statement from the Cyberspace Administration said that the new requirements are meant “to standardize and steer public accounts and information service platforms to be more self aware in keeping the correct direction of public opinion.”
Observers fear that the new requirements will only further limit opportunities for online creators in China, as well as restrict online information on a wide range of topics to only sanctioned state media and official propaganda accounts.
“The regulators want to control the entire procedure of information production,” Titus Chen, an expert in Chinese social media policy at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan, told the AP.
Last week, a WeChat messaging app account run by a former journalist at state broadcaster CCTV was shut down on “suspicion of providing an internet news information service,” according to the AP.
The policy revision is the latest in a line of more restrictive regulations recently implemented under Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has centered his rule on the concept of “digital sovereignty,” through increased centralized control over online platforms.
The AP reported that the Cyberspace Administration earlier this month launched a weeks-long clean-up of search engines, social media platforms and browsers, forcing companies to adhere to government guidelines or else risk getting banned.
In December, China announced that it was banning Tripadvisor and more than a hundred other mobile phone apps as part of what it called a crackdown on pornography and other improper content.
In October, Beijing's cyberspace agency announced that mobile browsers in China would have until Nov. 9 to complete a "self examination" to address issues including the spread of misinformation, sensational headlines and content that conflicts with the values of socialism.