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China issued new regulations on Friday around online video content, directing streaming platforms to eliminate a range of programs in yet another tightening of controls on the Chinese Internet.
Among the films, dramas and cartoons targeted by the China Netcasting Services Assocation’s (CNSA) rules are those “demonstrating ‘abnormal’ sexual relations or acts, such as… homosexuality.”
Online video platforms must hire at least three “professional censors” to watch every program from beginning to end and remove those that do not adhere to “correct political and aesthetic standards,” the regulations said.
Providers are called upon to produce programs that “center on the people and promote socialist values and Chinese culture.”
The new rules come just one week after China ordered a halt to video streaming on three major websites.
According to China’s media oversight body, the platforms — including the massively popular Sina Weibo microblogging platform, iFeng.com and ACFUN — did not possess the permits required for providing their audio-visual streams.
Authorities were directed to shut down offending audio-visual services “so as to create a cleaner cyberspace,” China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television said in a statement last Thursday.
Earlier this month, authorities also closed dozens of celebrity gossip blogs which were described as “catering to the public’s vulgar taste.”
Freedom House, a US-based nonprofit that advocates human rights and democracy, deemed China the world’s “worst abuser of internet freedom” in 2016, pointing to the steady diminishment of online freedom of expression under President Xi Jinping’s “information security” policies.
The country’s heavy web censorship — which blocks sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter — is notoriously known as the “Great Firewall.”
The regulations introduced Friday order the cutting or removal of videos that “damage national image, derogate revolutionary leaders, propagate military conquests of ancient emperors or spread religious extremism.”
Violent and pornographic content, as well as those depicting extramarital affairs, prostitution, drug addiction or superstitious behaviour such as “conjuring spirits,” are also banned.
Video providers must “work hard to tell China’s story well,” and “contribute to realising the Chinese dream of a great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” the regulations said.
Xinhua state news agency reported that video providers that violate the regulations could be reported to police for investigation.
Weibo users assailed the new rules, with many focusing on the ban on content showing homosexuality.
“What do they mean by ‘abnormal’?” one individual commented. “To think, that you can use such explicitly discriminatory language in a public announcement?!”
An account that helps same-sex couples travel abroad to get married said: “While others are progressing, we’re moving backwards.”
Still others remarked on the rules’ heavy-handed nature.
“The People’s Republic of China is steadily catching up to North Korea… soon we’ll have to sew up our mouths.”