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Tough rules in China to control live internet freedoms

ANI | Updated: Jun 29, 2022 21:53 IST

Beijing [China], June 29 (ANI): The Chinese government now insists on clean, pure, and legal content streaming on the internet. To this end, it has issued a diktat for the millions of live-streamers to fall in line and provide "appropriate" content that does not weaken or criticize the Chinese Communist Party. This is seen as another attempt to stifle dissent and control the political narrative on the web.
The diktat is also aimed at internet platforms to strictly monitor how children under 18 use their live streaming services. The platforms have been asked to stop underage users from tipping live streamers or becoming live streamers themselves without consulting with guardians.
What is most controversial in the guidelines issued by the National Radio and Television Administration is that internet live shows will need to be "forcibly" turned off by 10 pm local time for underage users who work the internet through the "youth mode" function of parental control.
This is seen as a crackdown on the country's most prominent live-streaming platforms are ByteDance's Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok, Kuaishou, Alibaba-baceked Bilibili, as well as Huya and Douyu, which are both backed by Tencent Holdings.
Livestreamers are a new class of commentators and opinion-makers on the internet. There are millions of them in China and all of them have become popular in a short time. Livestreams are difficult to monitor because they have no shelf life. That worries the Chinese government more as it wants to have control over all content coming out of the myriad communication platforms.
Digital communication giant Quartz said in a report: "Most Chinese live streams act as e-commerce influencers, promoting products ranging from sunscreen to rice. But politics sometimes creeps in, as happened during a live stream by Li Jiaqui, an influencer with tens of millions of followers. Li usually promotes products such as lipsticks, but earlier this month, he displayed a tank-shaped ice cream during a live stream on the eve of the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, when the military deployed tanks to crack down on demonstrators. After touching that political red line, he vanished without explanation."
Referring to the guidelines, Quartz said: "...China issued guidelines for live streamers, aimed at "strengthening the construction of professional ethics. The guidelines are 'obviously' response to the scandal surrounding Li's disappearance, said Eric Liu, a former censor at Weibo, China's Twitter equivalent. Liu, who now studies Chinese censorship, added: 'Livestreaming is the type of content that is scrutinised most strictly [by regulators]'."
China's State Administration of Radio and Television (SART) and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism jointly issued the guidelines. Without naming any live streamers, they insist that the former must "adhere to correct political orientation" and not publish content that "weakens, distorts, or denies the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)."
The guidelines also "prohibit influencers from hyping sensitive or trending social issues, and ban them from using technologies like deep-fake and face-swapping software to misrepresent the state, Party leaders, or China's history".

The Code of Conduct described its objectives thus: "...is formulated in order to further strengthen the professional ethics of network anchors, standardize professional behaviour, strengthen social responsibility, establish a good image, and jointly create a positive, healthy, orderly, harmonious and clear cyberspace."
The anchors are cautioned against taking the code lightly. "Network anchors shall consciously abide by the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and laws and regulations, preserve the national interest, the public interest, and the lawful rights and interests of others, consciously perform social responsibilities, and consciously accept supervision and social supervision by competent departments for the industry."
The dos and don'ts are made clear. "Network anchors shall adhere to correct political directions, public opinion orientations, and value orientations, establish a correct world outlook, outlook on life, and values, actively practise the core socialist values, advocate social morality, abide by professional ethics, and cultivate personal morality."
The task of controlling the current fads, fashion and culture is obvious in the code: "Network anchors shall adhere to a healthy style and taste, consciously abandon vulgarity, vulgarity, kitsch, and other such low-level tastes, consciously oppose negative phenomena such as traffic supremacy, deformed aesthetics, "rice circle" chaos, and money worship, and consciously resist conduct that violates laws and regulations, undermines network civilization, runs counter to network morality, and harms network harmony."
The network anchors are also told how to dress and what language to speak in and how to control their body movements and conform "to the public's aesthetic tastes and appreciation habits". The public is seen as a euphemism for the CCP.
The Code bans discussion on sensitive topics that can provoke reactions from the citizens or have the potential to lead to people's unrest. "Hyping up social hotspots and sensitive issues or deliberately creating "hot spots" in public opinion. Hyping up scandals, scandals, or bad deeds, disseminating content with a low style, and promoting content that violates the core socialist values and violates public order and good customs."
At the same time, The Code calls for shunning vulgarity, inciting fans to "tear each other up", stop marketing counterfeit products, stop disseminating false or harassing advertisements and bans "filming or broadcasting in venues that involve national security or public safety, affect the normal production and living order of society, affect the normal lives of others, invade the privacy of others, and other places prohibited by other laws and regulations".
Analysts say the sudden crackdown may have been triggered by the fact that the industry has in recent times, particularly during the two years of the pandemic, attained much popularity and importance. A Deloitte survey said that Chinese live-streaming had roughly 456 million viewers and "by 2020, as the China Association of Performing Arts report calculated, that viewer base had grown to 600 million". The industry was in 2020 valued at close to 200 billion yuan (over $28 billion). Livestreaming has also become a serious source of income for Chinese youth who anyway face difficulties finding jobs in the market.
It is to be seen how the new guidelines add to the already tight regulation of the internet, aimed at stifling political dissent. (ANI)