Beijing Erodes Free Speech With ‘Civilized Internet’

News Analysis The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is “civilizing” the internet at home and proposing similar crackdowns globally, in what should be a wake-up call to anyone who values their online freedom. China’s cyberspace regulator plans to establish a “civilized” internet that reshapes online discourse for more thorough dissemination of CCP propaganda into the daily online browsing of regular citizens, according to Zhuang Rongwen, the head of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). This will build China into a “modern socialist society,” according to Zhuang in his article of Oct. 27. Beijing not only seeks to entirely regulate content on the Chinese internet, but to influence world internet usage as well, through the promotion of new standards at the United Nations. In early October, the BBC warned the British parliament that Beijing-led proposals to the U.N. sought to provide the means to “inhibit the flow of international media.” Beijing’s proposed “New IP” would require users to register for internet usage, with governments then able to deregister non-preferred users for arbitrary reasons. Britain’s cyber spy agency, GCHQ, also warned that Beijing’s increasing control of the internet, along with the CCP’s abuse of the internet through IP theft, misinformation, and censorship, threatens to “splinter” the world’s information superhighway. The CCP apparently wants us to do what it says, not what it does. Chinese internet police are seen in this undated photo. (The Epoch Times) What China innovates in terms of cyber control has global implications and it is innovating fast. Internet firms should improve self-discipline, according to Zhuang, with social engineering in the form of promoting “good” role models rather than behaviors like cyberbullying. CCP cyber bullies, such as the many coordinated Chinese diplomatic accounts on Twitter, are exempt. Zhuang’s article reflected guidelines published in September by the State Council that also promoted the building of a “civilized” internet in which cyberspace would be used for CCP propaganda, while increasing the regime’s supervision of news, live streaming, and other online platforms. The public would assist in the supervision, presumably through snitching to authorities about any perceived infractions by their cyber neighbors. Is a family member looking over your shoulder? Expect a knock on the door. “Historical nihilism” that uses history to criticize the CCP’s leading role, and any disputation of the “inevitability” of Chinese socialism, will be shut down on the CCP’s future internet dystopia, to make room for the promotion of socialist moral values and model communist workers. On Oct. 26, the CAC published a draft of updated rules that would prevent banned social media users from reregistering their accounts under a similar name on any platform. This will close what has been a rare escape hatch from the CCP’s increasing online control. The new rules will also require online platforms to display users’ location on their page, making them easy targets for the local police. Did you just post a picture of your favorite boy band? Expect cuffs of the law enforcement, rather than starched, variety. Domestic users will have to show their city or province, and international users must show their country. In 2017, China required internet users, including microbloggers and instant messenger users, to verify their identities with an ID, mobile phone, and other documentation. These requirements are based on the regime’s 2017 cybersecurity law, which mandates a “clean and healthy” internet, void of not only dissenting political voices, but celebrity gossip and stock analysis. Rock bands are frowned upon, unless they wear proper (Maoist?) attire and put old communist ideas to new tunes. Party on, comrades. This fall, CAC issued guidelines that encouraged online platforms and content managers to increase censorship, including self-censorship, by all users. The CAC worked to decrease algorithm use by app operators, presumably of the type that do not privilege CCP propaganda. A ten-point notice ordered online administrators to decrease exposure to celebrities and online fan clubs, as well as violence and vulgarity. An August campaign by CAC suppressed citizen journalists and stock analysts who “misinterpret economic policies and forecast doom and gloom in financial markets.” Independent “self-media” accounts that allegedly spread fake news and rumors to blackmail companies were targeted. Expect blindingly sunny financial predictions to go with those Mao boy bands of your future. Along with Beijing’s recent crackdowns on the technology, education, and entertainment industries in China, the CAC’s global war against internet freedom is bringing the brave new world of communist automatons to a computer near you. Unless, the “uncivilized” internet strikes back. Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the

Beijing Erodes Free Speech With ‘Civilized Internet’

News Analysis

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is “civilizing” the internet at home and proposing similar crackdowns globally, in what should be a wake-up call to anyone who values their online freedom.

China’s cyberspace regulator plans to establish a “civilized” internet that reshapes online discourse for more thorough dissemination of CCP propaganda into the daily online browsing of regular citizens, according to Zhuang Rongwen, the head of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). This will build China into a “modern socialist society,” according to Zhuang in his article of Oct. 27.

Beijing not only seeks to entirely regulate content on the Chinese internet, but to influence world internet usage as well, through the promotion of new standards at the United Nations. In early October, the BBC warned the British parliament that Beijing-led proposals to the U.N. sought to provide the means to “inhibit the flow of international media.” Beijing’s proposed “New IP” would require users to register for internet usage, with governments then able to deregister non-preferred users for arbitrary reasons.

Britain’s cyber spy agency, GCHQ, also warned that Beijing’s increasing control of the internet, along with the CCP’s abuse of the internet through IP theft, misinformation, and censorship, threatens to “splinter” the world’s information superhighway.

The CCP apparently wants us to do what it says, not what it does.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese internet police are seen in this undated photo. (The Epoch Times)

What China innovates in terms of cyber control has global implications and it is innovating fast. Internet firms should improve self-discipline, according to Zhuang, with social engineering in the form of promoting “good” role models rather than behaviors like cyberbullying. CCP cyber bullies, such as the many coordinated Chinese diplomatic accounts on Twitter, are exempt.

Zhuang’s article reflected guidelines published in September by the State Council that also promoted the building of a “civilized” internet in which cyberspace would be used for CCP propaganda, while increasing the regime’s supervision of news, live streaming, and other online platforms. The public would assist in the supervision, presumably through snitching to authorities about any perceived infractions by their cyber neighbors. Is a family member looking over your shoulder? Expect a knock on the door.

“Historical nihilism” that uses history to criticize the CCP’s leading role, and any disputation of the “inevitability” of Chinese socialism, will be shut down on the CCP’s future internet dystopia, to make room for the promotion of socialist moral values and model communist workers.

On Oct. 26, the CAC published a draft of updated rules that would prevent banned social media users from reregistering their accounts under a similar name on any platform. This will close what has been a rare escape hatch from the CCP’s increasing online control. The new rules will also require online platforms to display users’ location on their page, making them easy targets for the local police. Did you just post a picture of your favorite boy band? Expect cuffs of the law enforcement, rather than starched, variety.

Domestic users will have to show their city or province, and international users must show their country.

In 2017, China required internet users, including microbloggers and instant messenger users, to verify their identities with an ID, mobile phone, and other documentation. These requirements are based on the regime’s 2017 cybersecurity law, which mandates a “clean and healthy” internet, void of not only dissenting political voices, but celebrity gossip and stock analysis. Rock bands are frowned upon, unless they wear proper (Maoist?) attire and put old communist ideas to new tunes. Party on, comrades.

This fall, CAC issued guidelines that encouraged online platforms and content managers to increase censorship, including self-censorship, by all users. The CAC worked to decrease algorithm use by app operators, presumably of the type that do not privilege CCP propaganda. A ten-point notice ordered online administrators to decrease exposure to celebrities and online fan clubs, as well as violence and vulgarity.

An August campaign by CAC suppressed citizen journalists and stock analysts who “misinterpret economic policies and forecast doom and gloom in financial markets.” Independent “self-media” accounts that allegedly spread fake news and rumors to blackmail companies were targeted. Expect blindingly sunny financial predictions to go with those Mao boy bands of your future.

Along with Beijing’s recent crackdowns on the technology, education, and entertainment industries in China, the CAC’s global war against internet freedom is bringing the brave new world of communist automatons to a computer near you. Unless, the “uncivilized” internet strikes back.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


Anders Corr

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Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. He authored “The Concentration of Power” (forthcoming in 2021) and “No Trespassing,” and edited “Great Powers, Grand Strategies.”