从微博到微信,中国网络言论空间在困境中演化

http://cn.nytimes.com/china/20140707/c07wechat/

从微博到微信,中国网络言论空间在困境中演化

IAN JOHNSON 2014年07月07日

北京——在过去几年中,类似Twitter的新浪微博在中国的社交媒体中占据了主导地位。在中国,传统媒体受到严格限制,但微博服务创建了进行自由公共辩论的网络空间,孕育了社会变革,甚至有时还能向官员问责。

不过,最近几个月,微博受到类似Facebook的微信的影响,相形失色。微信允许人们在自己选择的群体中发送即时讯息。

政府对微博的打压也加快了从公开交流到半隐蔽交流的转变。这种转变从根本上改变了中国6亿网民的社交媒体格局,抑制了当今中国最为开放的公共论坛的发展。

北京大学新闻学院教授胡泳表示,“这是中国社交媒体的新阶段。中国的第一家大型信息论坛在走向衰落,而关注点更窄的新平台正在崛起。”

微信有着自身的优势和拥护者。它比微博受到的审查要少,而且一些微信用户表示,他们知道交谈属私人性质,所以能更自由地发言。此外,许多用户也喜欢微信添加的语音即时讯息等功能。

不过,中国政府今年5月宣布,微信将受到更严格的监控。政府表示,一些用户在利用即时通讯平台传播“暴力、恐怖和色情”信息。根据政府公布的声明,负责监管互联网的机构表示,将“严厉打击境内外敌对势力对我的渗透破坏活动”。

在鼎盛时期,微博的前景一片光明。2011年,一场高铁事故导致40人丧生,使得微博崭露头角。当时,微博用户详述了导致事故发生的种种混乱及政府的失职。这一时刻标志着中国互联网的成熟,提醒人们,即便是面对强大的威权政府,媒体也能发挥作用。

如今的微博仍具有一定的重要性。与受到政府严格控制的报纸及杂志相比,人们更容易在微博找到挑战限制的新闻和评论。在关注名人和花边消息方面,微博依旧很受欢迎。今年3月,微博报称共有6600万日活跃用户,同比增长37%。

然而,政府数据显示,包括新浪微博在内的微博用户总人数去年减少了9%,其中很多人改用微信。这种转变,再加上科技股的普遍下跌,致使新浪微博4月份在纽约上市时的表现令人失望,共筹得2.86亿美元(约合17.7亿元人民币),没有达到预期的5亿美元

“与过去比差得很远,”知名律师贺卫方说。“我们仍然能在微博上找到真相或新闻报道,但评论没有以前有趣、深入。”贺卫方曾经常使用微博,有超过100万的粉丝。

这一方面是因为政府打压所谓的大V账号的举措。大V指的是经过认证的知名评论人士,通常拥有数以百万计的粉丝。几百名微博用户遭到拘捕,其中的大多数后来不再用微博发帖。

其他一些人退出微博则是由于上面的刺耳评论,因为争论往往会演变成严重的人身攻击。还有一些人厌倦了海量词汇被禁,不愿继续与审查者玩猫鼠游戏。例如,1989年的天安门广场镇压行动的日期“六四”就属于被禁之列,因而一些人创造性地用“5月35日”来代指,但“5月35日”后来也遭禁。这种文字游戏让一些铁杆用户觉得很有趣,但却会把普通读者搞糊涂。

微信利用了这种失望情绪。其母公司腾讯宣称,微信目前有3.55亿月活跃用户。但公司并没有公布日活跃用户的人数,因此难以与微博进行直接比较。不过,外界普遍认为,目前微信比较受欢迎。

微信也禁止提及“六四”,但允许讨论在微博上常常被禁的其他一些话题,比如安全部门前负责人周永康。大多数观察人士认为,之所以微信的审查比较宽松,是因为它的讯息受众有限。

维权人士表示,更重要的是,微信能让他们与志趣相投的人一起深入挖掘问题。资深环保人士李波在过去两年多的时间里利用微信召集人们反对具有破坏性的基础设施项目,比如备受争议的怒江大坝项目

李波参加了一个名为“环保政策倡导小组”的微信群。他表示,这个群有逾300名成员,其中包括一些开明的政府官员。尽管官员们很少参与讨论,他们还是会关注群里的往来讯息,偶尔邀请成员到他们的办公室聊聊环保政策。

另一些微信群则规模更小、范围更窄,比如有一个群关注的是中国东部某个受到污染的县。还有一些专注于特定事务的微信群,比如推进各种活动和项目的小型委员会。

只要不公开涉及政治,这些微信群可以发挥相当强大的作用。今年4月末,一些打工者利用微信组织了针对一家台湾公司的罢工活动,原因是厂方没有支付他们的养老保险。不过,大约在同一时间,试图利用微信阻止拆除教堂的教徒则发现,他们的朋友圈被用来追踪反对政府拆除行动的人。

然而,维权人士面临着一个更大的问题,即微信可能会成为一个封闭的小圈子。

今年,一家矿工权益慈善机构试图筹集 3000元人民币为一名因尘肺病而生命垂危的矿工购买氧气机。该机构最初的呼吁反应平淡。一名叫薛银虎(音译)的员工灵机一动,在微信朋友圈上发出呼吁,一个小时内就筹到了钱。

“这些人更了解你,所以他们更愿意支持你,” 他说。“不过有时候,你只是在和同一群人说话。”

微信还有一些内置的限制,从而削弱了它复制微博公共空间的能力。微信允许用户创建人人都能关注的公共帐号,不过每天只能在同一公共帐号上发一条贴。而且,用户无法用手机登录公共帐号,这会增加使用难度,比方说,想把揭发政府官员的证据发送到微信里的话,就会更加困难。

用户的评论也会在一段时间之后被删除,历史记录被抹去,长期讨论因此困难重重。政府还会监控这些帐号,最近就删除了一些涉及社会新闻和政治的帐号。

腾讯拒绝谈论公司如何决定给用户提供哪些功能。

不过,虽然在微博上形成网络开放社会的前景落了空,微信依然是维权人士可以利用的一种强大工具。

在环保和公共卫生领域工作了15年的胡佳表示,虽说有种种限制,社交媒体的问世还是催生了一个消息更为灵通的社会。

“微博和微信是上帝的礼物,”他说。“虽然政府在实施各种监控,可是对试图组织起来的人来说,我们获得了更大的益处。”

Amy Qin对本文有研究贡献。

翻译:许欣、张薇

 

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Asia loves Facebook, Latin America loves WhatsApp

 

http://forumblog.org/2014/06/social-media-worldwide/

Asia loves Facebook, Latin America loves WhatsApp

Hu Yong and Takeshi Natsuno

The potentially global reach of social media networks is among their defining characteristics. For the first time in history, it is as easy to video-chat and share everyday news with friends on the other side of the planet as with friends in the same city.

Yet the actual penetration of social media networks differs markedly from place to place. According to data from Reach in June 2013, for example, WhatsApp is installed on over 90% of iPhones in Latin America, but under 10% in the United States; Line is on 44% of Spanish handsets yet 1% of French ones; and KakaoTalk is practically universal in South Korea, but nearly unknown beyond East Asia.

Asia’s social login scene is dominated by Facebook, with 82% of the market, Google+ scoring just 2%; in North America, the figures are much closer at 47% and 31%, respectively.

Then there’s China, with a social media scene all of its own. With global behemoths Facebook and Twitter kept out by the Great Firewall, their niches in the social media ecosystem are divided among the likes of Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, Renren and Qzone. Despite barely penetrating beyond China, WeChat has more total number of users than WhatsApp, Line, Viber or Skype.

In the same way that isolation allowed different creatures to evolve on the Galapagos Islands and Madagascar, the equivalence between Chinese networks and their global counterparts is far from exact. While Weibo resembles Twitter in limiting posts to 140 characters, it resembles Facebook in allowing threaded comments and likes.

Some of the differences in use of social media networks are driven by cultural circumstances. Unlike on Twitter, for example, it is common for users of Sina Weibo to post jpegs of longer chunks of text – because images are more likely to escape the censors, who are searching text for keywords. It is also because Chinese users usually do not have the patience to follow the links inside Weibo messages.

Censorship shapes the Chinese social media scene in other ways. Following a 2013 crackdown which saw several social commentators on Weibo arrested and the accounts of some political opinion leaders erased, there has been a shift to WeChat; the facility to broadcast some things publicly and share others privately with small groups is increasingly being used for social organizing, as well as for sports team fans to connect and for teachers to get together with students.

Beyond the unique circumstances of the Chinese market, there are examples of how companies have failed to adapt sufficiently to local circumstances to create a critical mass. But, in general, the extent to which cultural differences underlie social media differences should not be overstated.

Many of the current differences in social media use are best explained not by culture, but by historical trends in device use. In Europe and North America, for example, many people were accustomed to accessing social networks on PCs before buying smartphones as a supplementary device; across Asia, it is more common for people’s first experience of the internet and social media to be on a smartphone.

Mobile optimization underlies why, for example, Skype has been caught quickly by the likes of WhatsApp, Line and Viber, despite having a six or seven year head start – Skype was optimized for the PC and has had to adapt to mobile use, while its newer competitors launched with mobile in mind.

Skype is not alone: all social media networks which evolved in a context where PCs dominated, and mobile internet access was based on WAP, have had to re-customize for a smartphone-dominated world. The extent of their success in doing so – or in buying up more mobile-savvy upstarts – will determine how much market share they can hold on to against younger competitors.

As the same smartphone devices become ubiquitous around the world, it is arguable that the social media landscape will gradually converge. Whichever culture they were brought up in, young people with an iPhone tend to find the same features useful.

Part of a series on the top ten trends in social media

Authors: Hu Yong is Associate Professor of Journalism and Communication at Peking University, People’s Republic of China. Takeshi Natsuno is a guest professor at Keio University, Japan.

 

Posted by Hu Yong and Takeshi Natsuno - 

 

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An Online Shift in China Muffles an Open Forum

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/05/world/asia/an-online-shift-in-china-muffles-an-open-forum.html?_r=0

An Online Shift in China Muffles an Open Forum

By IAN JOHNSON

JULY 4, 2014

BEIJING — For the past few years, social media in China has been dominated by the Twitter-like Sina Weibo, a microblogging service that created an online sphere of freewheeling public debate, incubating social change and at times even holding politicians accountable in a country where traditional media outlets are severely constrained.

But in recent months, Weibo has been eclipsed by the Facebook-like WeChat, which allows instant messaging within self-selected circles of followers.

The shift from public to semiprivate communication, accelerated by a government crackdown on Weibo, has fundamentally reordered the social media landscape for the country’s 600 million Internet users, curbing what had been modern China’s most open public forum.

“This is a new phase for social media in China,” said Hu Yong, a journalism professor at Peking University. “It is the decline of the first large-scale forum for information in China and the rise of something more narrowly focused.”

WeChat has its advantages and its defenders. It is less censored than Weibo, and some users say it allows them to speak more freely, knowing that their conversations are private. Many users relish its added functions, including voice messaging.

In May, though, the government announced that WeChat would be more heavily monitored. Saying that instant messaging services were being used to spread “violence, terrorism and pornography,” the agency charged with policing the Internet said it would “firmly fight infiltration from hostile forces at home and abroad,” according to a government statement.

In its heyday, Weibo promised much more. It came to prominence in 2011 after a high-speed rail crash killed 40 people. Weibo users detailed the mayhem and government shortcomings that led to the accident. It was a signal moment in the Internet’s coming of age in China, a reminder of how the medium could challenge even a formidable authoritarian government.

Weibo is still important. Boundary-pushing news and commentaries are still more easily found there than in the more tightly controlled world of government newspapers and magazines. It also remains popular for following celebrities and gossip. It reported in March that it had 66 million daily users, up 37 percent over a year earlier.

But government figures show that the overall number of microblog users, including those using Weibo and services from other providers, fell by 9 percent last year, with many migrating to WeChat. That shift, along with a general decline in technology stocks, contributed to a disappointing New York stock market listing in April for Weibo, which raised $286 million instead of the anticipated $500 million.

“It’s far from what it used to be,” said He Weifang, a prominent lawyer and onetime heavy blogger on Weibo with more than a million followers. “You can still find facts on Weibo, or news reports, but the comments aren’t as interesting or deep.”

One reason is the government crackdown on the so-called Big V accounts — prominent commenters, with verified accounts, who often had millions of followers. After hundreds were detained, most stopped posting on Weibo.

Others quit because of the sharp tone of commentary on Weibo, which often devolved into nasty, ad hominem attacks. Some grew tired of the dizzying list of banned terms and the cat-and-mouse games with censors to evade them. For example, “June 4,” the date of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, was banned, so creative minds came up with “May 35” (which would work out to June 4), until that was also banned. Such wordplay amused hard-core users but confused ordinary readers.

WeChat seized on the frustration. Its parent company, Tencent, claims 355 million active monthly users. The company does not make public the number of daily users, making a direct comparison to Weibo difficult. But few people disagree that WeChat is now more popular.

“June 4” is banned on WeChat too, but other terms routinely blocked on microblogs, such as the name of the former security czar Zhou Yongkang, are allowed. Most observers ascribe this leniency to the fact that WeChat messages have a limited readership.

More important, activists say, WeChat allows them to dig deeper into issues with like-minded people. The veteran environmentalist Li Bo has used WeChat for more than two years to rally opposition to damaging infrastructure projects, such as a controversial plan to dam the Nu River.

Mr. Li is a participant in one WeChat group called Environmental Policy Advocacy that has more than 300 members, including, he said, open-minded government officials. Although officials rarely participate, they see the traffic and occasionally invite members to their offices to chat about policies.

Some groups are smaller and narrower, such as one focused on a county in eastern China damaged by pollution. Others are task-specific, such as small committees for various campaigns and projects.

These groups can be powerful as long as they are not too overtly political. In late April, factory workers used WeChat to organize strikes against a Taiwanese company that had failed to pay into a retirement fund. Around the same time, however, churchgoers trying to use WeChat to prevent their church from being torn down found that their WeChat circles were being used to track down opponents of the government’s action.

A broader problem for activists, however, is that WeChat can become an echo chamber.

When a charity for coal miners was trying to raise $500 this year to buy oxygen pumps for a miner dying of black lung disease, its initial appeal fell flat. On a hunch, an employee, Xue Yinhu, appealed to followers on WeChat and raised the money in an hour.

“These people know you better, so they’re more willing to support you,” he said. “But sometimes you’re talking only to the same people.”

WeChat also has built-in constraints that hobble its ability to replicate Weibo’s public sphere. WeChat allows the creation of public accounts that anyone can follow, but limits posts to one a day. In addition, access to public accounts is not possible on cellphones, making it more difficult, for instance, to launch an incriminating photo of a public official into the blogosphere.

Comments are also deleted after a few days, making long-term discussions challenging and erasing a historical record. The government also monitors these accounts and recently deleted some covering social news and politics.

Tencent declined to comment on how it decided which functions to offer users.

Still, WeChat remains a powerful tool for activists, even if Weibo’s promise of an open online society has been frustrated.

Hu Jia, who has worked on environmental and public health causes for 15 years, said that the advent of social media, despite its limitations, had produced a better-informed society.

“Weibo and WeChat are gifts from God,” he said. “Despite all the government surveillance, the benefits we get are even greater for people trying to organize society.”

Amy Qin contributed research.

 

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中国限制批评报道并拟控制律师言论

http://cn.wsj.com/gb/20140619/bch100948.asp

2014年 06月 19日 10:01

 

中国限制批评报道并拟控制律师言论

 

中国政府针对中国记者的新闻采访活动宣布了一项不同寻常的广泛禁令,还提出了旨在约束律师网上行为的规定,进一步扩大通过收紧言论限制对公共领域实施更多控制的行动。

中国新闻媒体监管机构中国国家新闻出版广电总局周三在其网站上发布的一则通报中说,禁止新闻记者和记者站跨行业、跨领域采访报道,禁止新闻记者和记者站未经本单位同意私自开展批评报道。

据业内人士说,这是北京方面首次公开对新闻报道活动发布如此广泛的禁令。一家中文新闻刊物的前法律事务主管说,这表明中国当局更对于将自己的意志加于中国媒体头上更加自信。

他说,跨行业、跨领域报道的禁令曾经只是不成文的规则,在闭门会议中由审查人员传达;现在他们觉得可以在公开的政令中发布这样的规则了。

记者无法联系发布上述通报的新闻出版广电总局置评。

这一采访禁令出台的前一天,网上流传着由政府控制的中华全国律师协会的一份内部文件,其中规定通过互联网等媒介发表有关案件或公共事件的过激或不当评论,制造舆论声势和压力影响案件依法正常处理或攻击中国法律体系的律师协会会员将受到处分。

这一规定草案引发律师们的强烈反对。

网上一份由几位律师签名的中文声明称,一旦规定实施,将成为中国法制史上的污点。

中华全国律师协会公关部的一名官员对拟议的规定及其遭到的公共批评不予置评。

他说,目前上述规定还只是在协会内部征求意见,尚未做出决定。

中国有关部门会以多大力度实施这些规定目前尚不清楚。对国内媒体新的限制规定以及拟议的对律师的限制出台的背景是,中共正在大力打压异见人士和其他批评人士,数十名此类人士已经因此入狱或遭审问。有关部门还继续对互联网实施严密管控,并于近期阻止了对一系列谷歌(Google)服务(包括搜索服务)和一些外国媒体机构的访问(包括《华尔街日报》和路透社(Reuters))。

国家新闻出版广电总局表示,新报道禁令的主要目的是根除记者以负面报道相威胁从企业和个人榨取钱财的做法。

在通报中,该监管部门点名批评了八家报纸和记者,其中包括,一名记者涉嫌利用职务便利,收受某企业财务钱物共计人民币31.5万元。

一家全国性报纸的主编说,这种情形很常见,但他对禁令提出了批评,说这种解决方法不会有效。他说,做这种事情的记者很善于躲避检查,这个通报没有意义。

他表示,唯一的作用的让更多的人确信,监管部门想不出好的应对办法。

北京大学互联网及媒体研究人士胡泳说,一些新闻机构可能会找到办法规避新禁令。不过他也说,禁令会让事情变得更难。

拟议中的对律师的限制引发了更加强烈的反弹,一些律师公开呼吁全国律协负责人下台。

现居北京的法律学者徐昕在新浪微博写道:“律协修规或将引发史上最强反弹。律师代表当事人代表社会,打压律师即打压可能委托律师的每一个人。”徐昕在新浪微博的粉丝数量超过了1,000万。

Josh Chin

 

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China restricts news gathering, proposes punishing lawyers’ online use

China restricts news gathering, proposes punishing lawyers’ online use

By JOSH CHIN

June 18, 2014 12:54 p.m. ET

China’s government announced an unusually wide ban on news-gathering activities by Chinese journalists and proposed rules that would muzzle lawyers online, expanding a campaign to exert more control over the public sphere by tightening restrictions on speech.

Chinese journalists and news bureaus will no longer be allowed to report outside their designated beats and regions and will be prohibited from publishing critical reports without official approval, the country’s media regulator said in a notice posted to its website on Wednesday.

It is the first time Beijing has publicly issued such a wide ban on reporting activities, according to industry insiders. One former legal affairs director from a Chinese news magazine said it indicated increased confidence on the part of authorities in exerting their will on the Chinese media.

“Bans on cross-field and cross-region reporting used to be unwritten rules handed out by censors in closed-door meetings. Now they feel comfortable enough to issue that in a public decree,” he said.

China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio Film and Television, the regulator that issued the notice, couldn’t be reached to comment.

The reporting ban came a day after the circulation online of new draft rules proposed by the government-run All China Lawyers Association that would punish lawyers who go online to make “aggressive or inappropriate” comments about cases, attempt to use public opinion to influence the outcome of a case or attack the country’s legal system.

The draft rules prompted a backlash from lawyers.

“As soon as these rules take effect, they will become a black mark on the history of rule of law in China,” read one online statement in Chinese signed by several lawyers.

An official with the All China Lawyers Association’s public-relations department wouldn’t comment on the proposed rules or the public criticism of them.

“At present we are only seeking comment from within the lawyers’ association. No decision has been made,” he said.

Though it remains unclear how aggressive Chinese authorities will be in implementing them, the new restrictions on the domestic media and the proposed rules on lawyers arrive as the Communist Party pursues a relentless crackdown on dissidents and other critics in which they have jailed or interrogated dozens. Authorities have also maintained a tight grip on the Internet, recently blocking access to a wide range of Google services, including search, and to a number of foreign media organizations, including The Wall Street Journal and Reuters.

The primary aim of the new reporting bans, according to the regulator, is to stamp out efforts by journalists to use the threat of negative reports to extort money from companies and individuals.

In its notice, it named eight Chinese journalists and news organizations that were being investigated, including a reporter for a state-run newspaper who allegedly used his position to extract 315,000 yuan ($51,000) from an unnamed company.

An editor for one national newspaper said such cases were common, but criticized the reporting bans as an ineffective solution. “Journalists who do this sort of thing are good at avoiding detection. This notice is pointless,” he said.

“The only effect is going to be to convince even more people that the regulators are clueless.”

Hu Yong, an Internet and media scholar at Peking University, said some news organizations would likely find ways around the new bans. Still, he said, “they will make things harder.”

Reaction to the proposed restrictions on lawyers was more strident, with some lawyers calling openly for the head of the association to step down.

The proposed regulations “could ignite a backlash of historical proportions,” Beijing-based legal scholar Xu Xin wrote to his more than 10 million followers on the popular Weibo microblogging platform. “Lawyers represent their clients, and they represent society. Pressuring lawyers is pressuring anyone who might one day hire a lawyer.”

http://online.wsj.com/articles/china-restricts-news-gathering-proposes-punishing-lawyers-online-use-1403110468

 

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China censors assert online authority in blow to U.S. TV shows

http://money.msn.com/business-news/article.aspx?feed=OBR&date=20140501&id=17577023

China censors assert online authority in blow to U.S. TV shows

May 1, 2014 8:00 AM ET

BEIJING, May 1 (Reuters) – China’s censors are asserting their authority over foreign TV content on the country’s booming online video sites, after years of hands-off regulation, raising the risks for U.S. distributors left in the dark about which shows might fall foul of the rules.

Chinese authorities gave no reason when they unexpectedly slapped internet video sites with rare takedown notices for popular U.S. TV shows The Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife, NCIS and The Practice.

None of the shows are known for the political or sexual content that usually makes Chinese censors queasy, raising suspicions among some experts of a covert attempt to protect the revenues of ailing state broadcaster CCTV.

The uncertainty is a problem for the U.S. companies that license TV dramas for online streaming in China.

“Chinese video sites will hesitate to introduce potentially risky U.S. shows, because of concern that they won’t be approved,” said Hu Yong, an associate professor at Peking University’s School of Journalism and Communication.

“They probably will turn to buy more Korean and domestically produced shows, in order to maintain their video revenues.”

CBS Interactive, a subsidiary of CBS Corp, is responsible for The Good Wife and NCIS in China, while Warner Brothers Television, part of Time Warner Inc , sells the rights for The Big Bang Theory, online video companies told Reuters.

It was not immediately possible to establish which company licenses The Practice for China.

SENSITIVE CONTENT

Charles Zhang, CEO of Sohu.Com Inc, one of the companies targeted, told a conference call with reporters on Monday that he saw the move as a one-off event rather than a shift in policy towards American TV shows.

His comments were made after the price of shares in Sohu and rivals Youku Tudou Inc, Baidu Inc and Tencent Holdings Ltd tumbled on the news.

iQiyi, the online video unit of Baidu, said the removal notice from the State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) was because of sensitive content.

“The directive on the four American TV plays from SARFT is due to their content, including certain violations of state regulations,” said a spokeswoman for iQiyi in an email. “It is not an intentional sanction on American TV plays.”

Youku Tudou and Tencent declined to comment.

But the four TV shows will likely come back online soon, according to one source familiar with the matter, after offending footage is cut from the programmes.

SARFT declined to comment.

China’s online video industry saw its revenues more than quadruple from 2010 to 2013 to reach 12.8 billion yuan ($2.05 billion), according to data firm iResearch. This is expected to almost triple in size by 2017.

Such growth is an obvious threat to established broadcasters such as China Central Television (CCTV), widely seen as a dinosaur in China’s fast-developing media industry.

As online video revenues grew four-fold, CCTV saw the growth of its annual budget drop for three years running from 2010 to 2013, and growth of sales of some of the broadcaster’s most valuable advertising slots for 2014 also appeared to slow, according to Barclays.

“ANNUAL SHAKEDOWN”

Even as the four, relatively tame shows were being removed from streaming sites at the weekend, CCTV, better known for its turgid news broadcasts, was screening HBO’s violent and raunchy medieval fantasy drama Game of Thrones.

That, and CCTV’s confirmation to Reuters on Monday that it had bought exclusive broadcast rights to The Big Bang Theory, prompted some experts to see another motive.

“CCTV has gone out and licensed the show and realised Sohu and the others are already pumping it out, so who’s going to watch it on their platform?” said Mark Natkin, managing director of Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting.

“One answer is, let’s complain to regulators these guys haven’t gotten proper approval and they are violating our rights because we’ve licensed the broadcasting rights. It’s time-honoured, CCTV does an annual shakedown.”

CCTV told Reuters the broadcaster had nothing to do with The Big Bang Theory and other shows being taken down from websites.

“Pulling the shows offline is because of SARFT regulations. Every overseas TV programme has to be assessed and approved before it can go back online, so it has nothing to do with CCTV,” said a CCTV official who declined to identify himself.

“We got the exclusive permit for the overseas TV show broadcast, so only one channel can have it and other channels can’t broadcast it,” said the official, who declined to say whether the exclusive rights applied to both TV and online.

The removal of the four TV shows also comes as China’s online crackdown intensifies, with various branches of the government vying to assert their authority over the Internet.

In an unprecedented move, the anti-pornography office last week imposed fines and revoked online publication, audio and video licences for Sina Corp, after the company was accused of distributing pornography.

Previously the authority had only exercised control over traditional, rather than online, media, experts said.

SARFT’s directive indicates it too may now be adopting a more hands-on approach to how websites use foreign-made TV, said people familiar with the matter.

“SARFT has been working to set up a team but over the years it was still being discussed. Sooner or later they will have a dedicated policy on imported TV dramas,” said one of the people.

“It’s a new government, there’s a crackdown on media and right now it’s hard to predict, but it will come out.” ($1 = 6.2530 Chinese Yuan) (Additional reporting by Michael Martina and Beijing Newsroom, and Ronald Grover in LOS ANGELES; Editing by Alex Richardson)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2014. Click For Restrictions – http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp

 

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Anti-porn watchdog to revoke Sina internet portal’s licences over ‘erotic’ content

http://www.scmp.com/news/china-insider/article/1495986/anti-porn-watchdog-revoke-sina-internet-portals-licences-over

Anti-porn watchdog to revoke Sina internet portal’s licences over ‘erotic’ content

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 April, 2014, 9:06pm

UPDATED : Friday, 25 April, 2014, 3:16am

Wu Nan and Chris Luo

China’s anti-pornography authorities say they plan to revoke licences owned by Sina.com, a massive portal run by internet giant Sina Corp, in what observers say is a surprisingly harsh move.

Shares in the Nasdaq-listed company fell more than 7 per cent when the market opened but rose slightly to hit US$50.6 just before noon.

The joint co-ordinating body against obscenity said it found 20 “pornographic and erotic” e-books on Sina.com’s reading channel along with four pornographic audio-visual programmes in its channel for user-generated videos.

The authorities also said they would impose a fine of up to 10 times the profit Nasdaq-listed Sina Corp gained from the alleged smut.

Several suspects, their numbers unknown, were also placed under the Beijing police’s custody for investigation, the watchdog said. It was not immediately clear if the suspects were Sina.com users or employees, or what charges they would face.

Sina.com, widely seen as the Chinese equivalent of Yahoo, offers various kinds of content including news, videos and an e-commerce service.

In a statement delivered to Sina Corp, the authorities said they planned to cancel Sina’s Internet Publication Permit and Online Audio-Video Programme Licence, The Beijing News says. It did not say when the licences would be revoked.

This would bar Sina.com from offering e-books, audio and video content to its millions of daily users. Sina.com is said to have more than 230 million registered users and draws 700 million hits a day.

Although its news operation will be untouched, and its sheer scope means it will not lose too many its users, experts say the sanctions will have a chilling effect on Sina and other websites.

“The official notice to punish Sina.com certainly has an impact. It will frighten other websites about their own content generation,” said Hu Yong, associate professor at Peking University’s School of Journalism and Communication.

“Chinese government has a tradition to use special operations to inspect Internet, but the true purpose is usually hidden,” he said. “The tension between government regulations and Internet operations will continue.”

The body, also known as the National Office of Anti-Pornography and Anti-Illegal Publications, and the internet police have launched a crackdown on online obscenity two weeks ago, as part of wider campaign to tighten its grip on the internet.

So far at least 110 websites across the nation have been shut and some 3,300 pornography-related accounts have been blocked.

The China National Internet Information Office and the obscenity watchdog are targeting to eliminate any content that may “corrupt” the youth.

Sina has the right to request a hearing and ask for an administrative review on the decision, reported the Beijing News.

In an official statement published on Weibo on Thursday, Sina apologised to users for failing to “scrutinise” parts of its contents, and said it would fully cooperate with authorities.

The announcement came barely one week after the initial public offering of Weibo, a social media service owned by Sina and Alibaba, in New York. The stock sale raised US$285.6 million, and put Weibo’s total valuation at US$3.46 billion.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Smut watchdog to pull Sina’s licences

 

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http://www.dw.de/surveillance-a-symptom-of-unchecked-power/a-17488914

INTERNET

Surveillance: a symptom of unchecked power

As the world recognizes the Day Against Cyber-Censorship, DW looks at a pair of countries that have long struggled with the issue. Internet users in Iran and China have known for years that they are under surveillance.

Revelations from former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden made it clear to people around the world that their digital communications are being tracked and saved by the US spy agency.

That was one of the reasons why the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ were included on the 2014 list of Enemies of the Internet published on Wednesday (12.03.2014) by Reporters Without Borders.

 

It’s been a tough year for freedom of speech on the Internet

“The mass surveillance methods employed, many of them exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, are all the more intolerable because they will be used and indeed are already being used by authoritarians countries such as Iran, China, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to justify their own violations of freedom of information,” the report said. “How will so-called democratic countries be able to press for the protection of journalists if they adopt the very practices they are criticizing authoritarian regimes for?”

Inclusion on the press freedom group’s list put the US and UK in the company of regimes in Tehran and Beijing, which have both come under heavy international criticism for their long-time censorship and surveillance of the Internet.

 

Iran: Fluctuation on the surface

Despite some minor loosening of restrictions under Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, authorities in Iran have continued to develop a “national Internet” – the so-called “halal Internet” – that would cut off access to material deemed unacceptable, the report said.

“There have been fluctuations on the surface, including President Rouhani using Twitter, but the depth of the problem is intact,” Arash Abadpour, a Toronto-based Iranian blogger, researcher and engineer, told DW. “The filtering regime is a reality, the National Internet is creeping in, and online activity is still criminalized.”

 

A national ‘halal’ network could remove Iranians from the wider, public Internet

Filtering content, controlling Internet service providers, intercepting communications, staging cyber-attacks and imprisoning bloggers and Internet activists are common practice in Iran, Reporters Without Borders wrote.

The general reaction is to describe how horrific the National Internet is, and everyone calls for it to be abandoned,” said Abadpour, a jury member of The Bobs, DW’s award for online activism. “How this national project is going to be stopped is not known.”

 

China: Self-censorship holds users in check

Such a national network, which provides services to people in Iran without connecting them to the wider, public Internet, could be developed with help of the Chinese Internet authorities responsible for creating the country’s Great Firewall, which for years has censored or filtered online material from Internet users in China.

“Bloggers and journalists have a general idea of what content is permitted and what is banned, but the ‘red lines’ that must not be crossed can change at any time,” Reporters Without Borders wrote in its report.

At a time when messages can cross the Internet nearly instantaneously and when Internet data traffic is growing, the government does not have the resources to monitor all Internet activity, which makes self-censorship especially powerful for the Chinese government, according to Hu Yong, a Chinese media critic and jury member of The Bobs.

“The threat of shutdown – either of certain products and services or the entire business – has caused Internet companies to employ a significant percentage of their workforce, as well as sophisticated screening algorithms, to comply with this requirement of self-censorship,” Hu told DW, adding that authorities also tell Internet companies what terms, information or content must be deleted or blocked from their services.

In addition to having what Reporters Without Borders calls the world’s most sophisticated Internet censorship system, China is also the world’s biggest prison for online activists – with “at least 70 online information providers currently in prison because of their Internet activities.”

 

Chinese bloggers and journalists usually know what they can say and what will land them in jail

 

Unchecked power

We Fight Censorship, a project run by Reporters Without Borders, lists 166 online activists in prison around the world – plus another three killed this year. Statistics like these were among the reasons the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists put cyberspace on its “Risk List” of the places where press freedom was most under threat.

But all the nations listed in the Enemies of the Internet report share one feature: the excesses of surveillance and censorship lie in a few people being able to determine what the public can read, write, and comment on, Abadpour said.

“The problem essentially lies in unchecked power. It doesn’t really matter who has it,” he said. “I would like to see ‘unchecked power’ on the list of enemies of not only the Internet, but the whole of humanity.”

DW.DE

  • Date 12.03.2014

 

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