We may have been banned from citing Wikipedia articles in our high school papers, but according to new Chinese laws, it’s social media that is a truly illegitimate source for journalism. On Sunday evening, the Cyberspace Administration of China declared that online media would not be able to report news from social media sites without the express approval of the government. This, the country’s internet regulator says, will stymie the spread of falsehoods and rumors.
It’s the latest in a string of regulations the Chinese government has levied on denizens of the digital world. From app developers to writers, few are unaffected by the administration’s tough laws that are often described a roundabout form of censorship. In China’s latest law affecting social media sites, the Cyberspace Administration noted, “It is forbidden to use hearsay to create news or use conjecture and imagination to distort the facts.”
It continued, “All levels of the cyberspace administration must earnestly fulfill their management responsibility for internet content, strengthen supervision and investigation, severely probe and handle fake and unfactual news.”
Claiming that a number of news stories that had recently circulated on the internet were in fact untrue (including one in particular about a bus fire), the regulatory agency insisted that media sites had a responsibility to uphold in presenting honest and accurate information.
“All websites should bear the key responsibility to further streamline the course of reporting and publishing of news, and set up a sound internal monitoring mechanism among all mobile news portals [and the social media chat websites] Weibo or WeChat,” the directive said.
The new social media law is one of the first acts new Chinese internet czar Xu Lin has set in motion, and was announced just days after he replaced the former head of the Cyberspace Administration, Lu Wei. The action certainly falls in line with China’s behavioral patterns when it comes to regulating the web.