China targets online platforms to “clean up” the internet

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China will scrutinize online platforms such as social media networks and video sharing sites to tackle fake accounts and information as part of its efforts to “clean up” the internet, the country’s cyber regulator said Thursday.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said it would launch a two-month special operation to combat fraudulent online behavior, from increasing engagement numbers to paying for fake fans and reviews.

The investigation comes against the backdrop of widespread regulatory action in multiple sectors, with officials tightening oversight of companies in the tech, real estate, gambling, education, cryptocurrency and finance sectors.

The CAC held a video conference Wednesday that was attended by its provincial and municipal authorities from across the country, according to a statement posted on its website on Thursday.

“The conference found that at present the creation of online traffic, malicious public relations and comments for cash … violate the legitimate rights and interests of internet users,” the statement said, adding that this is the “final battle” in the CAC drive “cleans up” the Internet.

Previous promotions this year targeted celebrity fan base, underage internet use, and discussions of historical events that differed from the official portrayal of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Though no companies or individuals were named in Thursday’s statement, platforms that offer film and book reviews, short videos and social networks would be a focus of the operation.

Douban, an online platform where tens of millions of Chinese users review movies and discuss various social issues, and the microblogging site Weibo were fined by the CAC this month for illegal content.

China’s State Council released guidelines for building a “civilized” Internet in September, saying that the Internet should be used to promote education about the ruling Communist Party and its achievements.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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