China's Latest Target For Online Crackdown: Live-Streaming Foreigners

As we’ve noted before, China’s grip on the domestic Internet seems so complete that it’s hard to think how the authorities there might tighten control yet further. But the Chinese government is nothing if not resourceful, and has managed to come up with a new group to target, as this report on the Sixth Tone site explains:

Multiple foreign users have received suspension notices from major live-streaming apps, including Blued, China’s most popular gay social networking app, and Yizhibo, which is backed by microblog platform Weibo.

This seems to be as a result of the new regulations governing the Internet in China, brought in at the end of last year. Among the measures there is one that requires online broadcasts to be “beneficial to the promotion of socialist core values”, while another stipulates that platforms should not allow hosts from outside mainland China to create channels without first asking permission from the country’s Ministry of Culture. That’s where the difficulty arises:

According to an employee of one of the biggest streaming companies, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record, the problem with the new regulations is that there are no details on how to apply. Live-broadcasting platforms have dealt with the uncertainty in a variety of ways. At the employee’s company, old users are allowed to continue broadcasting, but new foreign users cannot sign up for the time being.

However, other services have decided to play it safe by taking all non-Chinese users offline until the new rules have been clarified. A Yizhibo employee told Sixth Tone that a key issue was a requirement for real-name verification — something that Techdirt has discussed before. Apparently, it’s not a straightforward process when it comes to foreigners.

The crackdown on live-streaming services is not the only recent move by the authorities that targets foreigners. Last week, China made another announcement, much more far-reaching in its effect than the live-streaming ban:

China is to begin taking fingerprints of all foreign visitors as it steps up security on its borders, the Ministry of Public Security said on Thursday.

Perhaps the Chinese government feels that it has the domestic population sufficiently under control now that it can move on to tightening up the rules for foreign visitors.

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Author: Glyn Moody

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