The People’s Republic of China has strict censorship laws regarding media in all formats for the sole purpose of protecting national security and maintaining social stability. While it has made some strides in regards to lifting gaming bans, Reuters reports these laws are now targeting a different form of communication: livestreaming.
China has reportedly contacted three major social media and news websites to take down all video and audio streaming services due to politically charged social commentary. China’s Twitter-esque social media website Sina Weibo, video-sharing and game streaming platform ACFUN, and news website Ifeng.com are being affected by the ban.
The move is due to the presence of politically charged material that violates China’s censorship laws within these websites’ livestreaming content. User commentary is also inciting “negative opinions.”
Because of its censorship laws, China’s government regularly combs through its social media websites for potentially harmful comments and content. This includes, but isn’t limited to, politically charged comments, anything that slanders and insults others, promotion of cults or superstitions, mockery of China’s culture and traditions, and the showing of drug use and violence. While pictures and written comments that include these things can be deleted, it’s harder to regulate livestreams, videos, and audio content.
Foreign social media websites like Facebook and YouTube are banned in China entirely. Videogame streaming platform Twitch is banned; even Google is banned. Although China in 2015 lifted its videogame console manufacturing and ownership ban made in 2000, while its laws regarding content censorship remained in place. To this day, the content of video games is subject to the government’s censorship for the same reasons as its internet and media censorship: national security and stability.
Sina Weibo has acknowledged the notice issued by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) of the People’s Republic of China and is in the process of evaluating who the ban will affect from the staff to its major influencers. But what’s most interesting is that the SAPPRFT notice states that Sina Weibo does not have the proper licenses for internet livestreaming services, in addition to its content violations.
Sina Weibo, like other livestreaming social platforms like Momo and YY, is part of a booming livestreaming market in China, which grew 180% in 2016 alone, according to Technode. The same story includes a report from the China Internet Network Information Center, stating that there were over 344 million livestreaming users in China in 2016, which constitutes about 47 percent of all of the internet users in the country. Video game streaming was the largest part of this market to grow, led by gameplay streaming platform Douyu and gaming and social media giant Tencent.
Without question, this ban will have effects on that livestreaming market, and the bans on Sina Weibo, ACFUN, and Ifeng.com could just be the beginning.
It is currently unclear when these livestreaming services will be taken down from the websites under the ban.