67,000 social media accounts closed, 1.4 million posts deleted in China’s crackdown

May 28, 2023, 6:11 PM UTC
3 mins read
67,000 social media accounts closed, 1.4 million posts deleted in China's crackdown

China’s Cyberspace Administration, the country’s top internet regulator, has announced the deletion of 1.4 million social media posts as part of a comprehensive crackdown on “self-media” accounts. The two-month investigation, which targeted alleged misinformation, illegal profiteering, and the impersonation of state officials, resulted in the closure of 67,000 social media accounts and the removal of hundreds of thousands of posts. This stringent rectification campaign aims to cleanse China’s cyberspace and enhance authorities’ control over online content.

Since 2021, China has been actively pursuing measures to sanitize its internet landscape by targeting billions of social media accounts. The objective behind this endeavor is to streamline online discourse and facilitate more effective governance. In this recent crackdown, the focus was on popular Chinese social media platforms such as WeChat, Douyin, and Weibo, specifically targeting “self-media” accounts. These accounts refer to platforms that publish news and information but are neither government-operated nor state-approved.

The Chinese government has a long-standing history of arresting citizens and censoring accounts that disseminate factual information deemed sensitive or critical of the Communist Party, the government, or the military—especially when such information becomes viral. Among the 67,000 accounts permanently closed during this campaign, approximately 8,000 were taken down for spreading fake news, rumors, and harmful information, as confirmed by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC).

Aside from the permanent closures, around 930,000 accounts faced lesser penalties ranging from losing followers to suspension or cancellation of profit-making privileges. Furthermore, as part of a parallel initiative, the regulator shut down over 100,000 accounts that purportedly misrepresented news anchors and media agencies in response to the rise of AI-assisted fake news dissemination.

The CAC also reported targeting nearly 13,000 counterfeit military accounts, with names such as “Chinese Red Army Command,” “Chinese Anti-terrorist Force,” and “Strategic Missile Force.” An additional 25,000 accounts were flagged for impersonating public institutions, including disease and prevention control centers, as well as state-run research institutes. Approximately 187,000 accounts faced consequences for impersonating news media organizations, while over 430,000 were accused of providing professional advice or educational services without the necessary qualifications.

Moreover, approximately 45,000 accounts were closed due to their involvement in sensationalizing controversial topics, pursuing popularity, and engaging in illegal monetization practices. The CAC emphasized that it actively collaborated with public security agencies and market supervision departments to deliver a decisive blow against illegal “self-media” accounts.

The regulator concluded its statement by urging netizens to actively participate in monitoring and reporting any instances of illegal “self-media.” The CAC sought the public’s cooperation in providing valuable clues and jointly maintaining a clean cyberspace. The overarching goal of this crackdown is to strengthen control over information flow and ensure that online platforms adhere to the desired standards set by the Chinese government.

As China continues its efforts to shape its digital landscape, the authorities remain committed to maintaining strict oversight, fostering a controlled online environment, and addressing concerns related to misinformation and unauthorized content. The ongoing campaign against “self-media” accounts signifies China’s resolve to exercise greater influence over online discourse while emphasizing the responsibility of internet users in upholding a sanitized and compliant cyberspace.

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