IT IS EASY to assume that the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC)’s investigations into three of the country’s leading social media platforms are just a tightening of censorship typically to be expected ahead of the forthcoming Party congress.
Tencent Holdings’ messaging app WeChat, Sina’s Twitter-like service Weibo, and Baidu’s communication forum Tieba face complaints that they have allowed their users to spread terror-related material, rumours and obscenities, breaches of the law that “endangered national security, public security and social order”.
But there is a more systematic effort to control information in play.
The new cybersecurity law that took effect on June 1 and of which the social media platforms have fallen foul as it makes online platforms responsible for the content they carry, is the third piece of recent legislation codifying China’s doctrine of cyber-sovereignty. The National Security Law and the Anti-Terrorism Law, both passed in 2015, are the other two.
Collectively they form the basis of Beijing’s intended state control of the internet, which, in turn, is part of the greater crackdown on incipient dissent.