China targets social media in new crackdown

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China’s largest social media platforms are being investigated for suspected breaches of the nation’s strict cybersecurity laws.

The new laws, which critics say seek to control citizens’ access to information, are being rigorously enforced ahead of a planned reshuffle at the top of the Communist Party.

According to the Office for Cyberspace Administration, the social media platforms Weibo, WeChat, and Baidu Tieba have failed to adequately monitor the content users are sharing.

The social media sites are accused of being used to spread rumours, obscenities and terrorism-related content, “jeopardising national security” according to the administration.

In China, recent internet crackdowns have led to Apple withdrawing a number of apps from the App Store which allowed users to browse the internet privately.

Foreign businesses operating in China have expressed concern at the crackdown on privacy technologies which they are worried may disrupt their operations and jeopardise trade secrets.

The crackdown comes ahead of the 19th Party Congress at which significant changes to China’s ruling Communist Party are expected.

The internet has long proved a thorn in the side of the authoritarian regime, which for years has responded with both technological and legal measures to control its citizens’ access to information.

A national network-security construct called the Golden Shield Project has developed a censorship and surveillance tool known as the Great Firewall of China, which has been in operation since 2003.

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are not accessible in China, which has recently also banned the image of Winnie the Pooh – reportedly because the bear was being compared to President Xi Jinping.



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