China’s control of its news media continues to tighten as new measures unveiled by authorities will forbid the use of social media as a source for news stories unless official approval is given.
Styled as a “campaign against fake news and the spreading of rumors,” the new regulations were handed down by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). “It is forbidden to use hearsay to create news or use conjecture and imagination to distort the facts,” said the CAC.
The regulator listed a number of social media-sourced stories that have been reported in the news that have turned out to be false, including one involving a bus fire.
A number of websites have been punished by the CAC this year for having published unverified stories include Sina, iFeng, NetEase, and Tencent. The latest regulation comes after a long line of restrictions placed upon media and the internet in China.
In March of last year, WeChat users were forced to comply with new rules that forbade a number of illegal acts including lying. The month before, the CAC forced all WeChat users to register their accounts using their real names. Last May, some 35 dating websites were shut down for spreading pornography.
In July 2015, new regulations forbade Chinese journalists from working with Western news media in order to prevent state secrets from leaking out. This past February, Chinese President Xi Jinping called upon Chinese news media to adhere to party principles with a symbolic visit to the news offices of CCTV and Xinhua.
The CAC has been front and center in getting Chinese internet services to take on censorship responsibilities of their own. Last April, the CAC called on Sina Weibo to improve its censorship over its users, blaming it for “failing to censor illegal content”.
The new restrictions come a week after the former head China’s internet censorship bureau stepped down.