While ‘fake news’ has come under attack in the West, a news crackdown of another sort is underway in China. The Chinese government has announced plans to tighten its control over online news content with the introduction of comprehensive legislation that will require all companies that publish, edit or share news to hold a government license. Organizations without a license will not be able to post news or commentary about the government, military, economy or other “areas of public interest”.
The new rules, which go into effect on 1 June, will affect a wide range of platforms and providers, including websites, blogs, microblogs, forums, internet broadcasts and instant messaging tools.
China is home to the world’s largest online population, with some 700 million people, or roughly half the population, considered regular internet users. As in many other countries, the internet and social media are primary sources of news for a large share of the populace. Restrictions imposed on internet content providers in the country are already considered Orwellian by many, with major Western websites like Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter blocked or outright banned in the country.