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China tightens rules on online news, network providers

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Beijing – China on Tuesday issued tighter rules for online news portals and network providers, the latest step in President Xi Jinping’s push to secure the internet and maintain strict party control over content.

Xi has made China’s “cyber sovereignty” a top priority in his sweeping campaign to bolster security.

He has also reasserted the ruling Communist Party’s role in limiting and guiding online discussion.

The new regulations, released by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) on its website, extend restrictions on what news can be produced and distributed by online platforms, requiring all services to be managed by party-sanctioned editorial staff.

The administration said the rules, which come into effect on June 1, apply to all political, economic, military, or diplomatic reports or opinion articles on blogs.

Others are websites, forums, search engines, instant messaging apps and all other platforms that select or edit news and information.

All such platforms must have editorial staff who are approved by the national or local government internet and information offices, while their workers must get training and reporting credentials from the central government, it said.

Editorial work must be separate from business operations and only public funds can be used to pay for any work, it added.

Under the rules, editorial guidance measures used for the mainstream media will be applied to online providers to ensure they too adhere to the party line, such as requiring “emergency response” measures to increase vetting of content after disasters.

The rules also stipulate that a domestic business that wants to set up a joint venture with a foreign partner, or accept foreign funding, must be assessed by the State Internet Information Office.

Content on China’s internet has never been free of government censorship, though a number of internet companies run news portals that produce relatively independent reporting and opinion pieces.

A number of these platforms were shut down last year, after Xi in April called in a speech for better regulation of China’s internet.

The CAC separately on Tuesday released another set of rules that on June 1 will require “network providers and products” used by people who might touch upon “national security and the public interest” go through a new round of security reviews.

Beijing adopted a cyber security law in 2016 that overseas critics say could shut foreign businesses out of various sectors in China.

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