It has been only two weeks since China’s new Cybersecurity Law came into force, but its effects are already being felt across social and news media networks.
On June 1, public social media accounts were officially barred from writing or republishing news reports without a permit, as stipulated by the Provisions for the Administration of Internet News Information Service.
On June 7, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the country’s online censorship agency, shut down at least 60 major celebrity news accounts across Weibo, Tencent, NetEase and Baidu. The CAC said the move is intended to “proactively promote socialist core values and develop a healthy and positive atmosphere” by curbing coverage of sensationalist celebrity scandals.
This marks a shift in focus for the CAC. In the past, many believed that the driving force of censorship was mainly political and that people could enjoy “online freedom” as long as they refrained from commenting on current affairs. The crackdown on entertainment news indicates that ideological struggle is not only directed against foreign enemies, but also at thoughts and activities seen to go against “socialist core values.”
The new cybersecurity law has also become a point of contention for foreign technology companies operating in China. Among other things, it requires that companies store their data in China and that users register with their real names to use messaging services. Officials have yet to convey much information about how the law will be implemented, but these provisions do not bode well for the protection of digital rights.
Online censorship keeps rising in Egypt
Media rights advocates and independent news outlets in Egypt are reporting that web censorship has continued to rise since authorities officially banned 21 news websites in late May, alleging that they were “supporting terrorism and spreading lies.” These websites include the Arabic edition of Huffington Post, Al Jazeera, and local independent news site Mada Masr, among others. This past week, the Association for Freedom of Thought in Egypt reported that five virtual private network sites (which help circumvent censorship) were blocked, along with blogging platform Medium, and multiple Turkish and Iranian media outlets. On June 11, the group reported that the total number of sites currently blocked in the country had risen to 64.