China restricts sharing of ‘unofficial’ videos on social media

Hong Kong, Dec 21 (IANS) China has banned its internet users from sharing on the social media videos that are not from official sources, media reports said.

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (China), in a notice, said Chinese social media platforms WeChat and Weibo were not allowed to disseminate user-generated audio or video programmes about current events, reported the Guardian on Tuesday.

“The move is likely to weed out smaller players,” said Duncan Clark, founder of investment advisory firm BDA China, which specialises in the Chinese Internet.

“The government prefers to have concentration on larger sites, where it has greater sway. There has also been an explosion of live-streaming sites in recent years, and the government is keen to rein them in and assert control,” he said.

But the larger implications for China’s already limited freedom of online speech will depend on how strongly the new rules are implemented, Clark said.

China was ranked by Reporters Without Borders as one of the worst countries for press freedom. Reporters Without Borders is an international non-profit, non-governmental organisation that promotes and defends freedom of information and press.

The news landed quietly among China’s internet users, with only a handful discussing the new rules on Weibo, many seemingly resigned to ever increasing censorship.

“The authorities regulate everything, what a step backward for Weibo,” one user said on the online platform.

Another commenter wondered: “What do we do now, just give up on self-made media?”

The ban comes barely weeks after a draft law aimed to give the local police the power to censor the internet in the wake of natural disasters, another situation where the government often struggles to control the narrative.