Censoring films and television programs was not enough for the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT)—the official censorship agency of the Chinese regime. A new rule now requires that anyone who uploads a video to the Internet submit real identification.
SARFT stated in a notice on Jan. 20 that Internet video and audio program servers must “strictly guard the pass” for the upload of content. This refers to China’s YouTube-like websites that include Youku, Tudou, and Ku6, among others. There are up to 428 million users of these websites, Chinese media reports say. YouTube is blocked in China.
The notice said that videos uploaded need to be logged in a database, and that any content that SARFT believes “does not comply with the relevant provisions of the state” must be “immediately taken down.”
And if the bad videos are created by television companies, heads will roll.
The authorities appear to be mainly targeting the potential for the major Internet portals to spread viral video of official abuses rapidly, to millions of people. Chinese Internet users can still put videos on the Internet—but the spread will be limited to their personal blog or private channel, and won’t get a wide audience. Only those who put in their Chinese ID will receive significant traffic.
Censorship authorities may be responding to the “mini-films” and popular Internet series made by small movie studios in recent years. Often these have featured films mocking the Communist Party, or government policies. These studios will now be burdened with the need to obtain operating licenses.
Officially, all this is to “avoid vulgar, low-style violence, and pornographic content” that has a “negative impact on society,” the authorities said. China’s censors wish to “create a civilized and healthy Internet environment.”
Political training and education programs will also be held, to guide Internet filmmakers to “adhere to the correct orientation.”
China’s Internet users were generally appalled at the fresh restrictions. Most of the comments on Sina Weibo, a popular online platform, are complaining and attacking SARFT for further curtailing their already limited freedoms online.
A number of Chinese Internet users postulated that the new move was aimed at stamping out the deluge of videos showing Communist Party officials in compromising sexual acts with women they are not married to. A series of such videos has emerged in the last couple of years, causing great embarrassment to the Party members targeted, and the Party as a whole.
The most recent target of a scandalous video of this nature was the president of the Shaanxi Provincial Communist Party School, Qin Guogang. Video and pictures of Qin with a female student were leaked online earlier this month. The Party School is supposed to be the ideological bastion of communism in China.
A netizen remarked: “This is a new trick to avoid scandalous videos of officials from being revealed.”