China targets online platforms in quest to ‘clean up’ internet

Dec 23 (Reuters) – China will scrutinise online platforms
such as social media networks and video-sharing sites to clamp
down on fake accounts and information as part of its drive to
“clean up” the internet, the country’s cyber regulator said on
Thursday.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said it would
launch a two-month special operation to target deceptive online
behaviours, ranging from boosting engagement figures to paying
for fake fans and reviews.

The investigation comes against the backdrop of a
wide-ranging crackdown by regulators on several sectors, with
officials tightening oversight of companies in technology, real
estate, gaming, education, cryptocurrencies and finance.

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

“The conference noted that at present, fabricating online
traffic, malicious public relations and comments-for-cash …
harm the legitimate rights and interests of netizens,” said the
statement, adding that this was the “final battle” in the CAC’s
drive “clean up” the internet.

Previous special operations this year have targeted
celebrity fandom, minors’ usage of the internet and also
discussions of historical events that differ from the official
narrative promoted by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

While Thursday’s statement did not name any companies or
individuals, it said platforms hosting film and books reviews,
short videos, and social networking would be among the focal
points of the operation.

Douban https://www.reuters.com/technology/china-fines-douban-unlawful-release-information-2021-12-02,
a online platform where tens of millions of Chinese users
review films and discuss various social topics, and
micro-blogging site Weibo https://www.reuters.com/world/china/chinas-cyberspace-regulator-fines-sina-weibo-operator-3-mln-yuan-2021-12-14,
were both fined by the CAC this month for unlawful content.

China’s State Council published guidelines for building a
“civilised” internet in September, saying the web should be used
to promote education about the ruling Communist Party and its
achievements.

(Reporting by Eduardo Baptista; Editing by Pravin Char)

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