China unveiled a new strategy to clean up its internet, state media stated, amid a fresh wave of apparent censorship by Beijing blocking more foreign media websites as well as shutting down domestic accounts on social media.
The mutual effort was unveiled in May by the cyberspace administration, the information technology ministry, the public security agency and the markets regulator which will run until the end of the year, the official Xinhua news agency.
The “rectification” campaign will punish and expose websites for “illegal and criminal actions,” failing to “fulfill their obligation” to take safety measures or for the theft of personal data, it added.
The campaign follows a recent series of shutdowns and blockages of specific websites and social media accounts.
Several foreign media beyond Beijing’s control, such as the Washington Post and The Guardian, have not been accessible online since last weekend, adding to a list of blocked sites that includes Reuters.
Online Chinese financial news publication Wallstreetcn .com said on Monday it took its website and mobile app offline at authorities’ request but gave no details of the rules it may have broken.
Social media accounts ranging from those publishing politically sensitive material to financial news have also been shut recently.
Authorities said in November they shut 9,800 accounts of news providers deemed to be posting sensational, vulgar or politically hazardous content.
In recent years, China has regularly campaigned to police its internet, shutting down websites, social media accounts, and mobile applications.
“The cleaning drives are not purely political. Many, possibly even most, of those accounts were possibly spam, porn or other types of content that the platforms have made clean are undesirable and unwelcome,” stated Fergus Ryan, an analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
“The problem is that in among those reputable removals are accounts that are removed for political reasons .”
The term “self-media” is generally used on Chinese social media to express independent news accounts that produce original content but are not formally registered with the officials