Faced with criticism of its health policy, Beijing is continuing its strategy of censoring online content. As the 20th Party Congress approaches in November, Xi Jinping wants to secure a third term by silencing opposition voices. China is now attacking influencers, to limit their speech. On June 21, the government said it wanted to fight misinformation by forcing certain content creators to have certification. The targeted contents are mainly those dealing with health, finance or law. Livestreaming platforms and apps are the first to be targeted.

    China wants to “fight disinformation” from influencers

    In China, the most popular streaming apps are Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, and Kuaishou, giant Tencent’s livestreaming platform. 700 million Chinese, or 68% of the population, regularly watch video content on the Internet.

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    The new Chinese regulations have the official objective of reducing the risk of disinformation to which the population may be exposed. Rather than moderating content a posteriori, Beijing wants to regulate its publication before the information is shared. The government therefore chooses to validate itself the creators who will be able to publish certain types of content.

    The National Administration of Chinese Radio and Television, along with the Ministry of Culture, will be responsible for providing certifications to influencers so that they can talk about their favorite topics. As for distribution platforms, it is their responsibility to verify that the creators who publish on them have the authorizations to talk about medicine, finance, law or even education.

    Ever greater control over online speech

    This new policy will have direct consequences for influencers who want to talk about these topics. Even if the authorities do not specify the criteria for access to this certification, it is a question of evaluating the qualifications of content creators. If a person wants to talk about medicine, they will most likely have to have training in the field or be a working health professional.

    The main reason not mentioned is Beijing’s daily fight against discordant discourse vis-à-vis its zero covid policy. A very restrictive policy, widely criticized during the health crisis, which recently prompted the government to want to control all online comments.

    Beyond fighting misinformation, China is also looking to go after influencers who sell products through their videos. It is a market that weighs several billion dollars as recalled CNBC. This phenomenon, very present on streaming platforms, exploded during the pandemic and took the name of “live commerce”. A young practice akin to teleshopping and that Beijing wants to regulate.

    China has been chaining measures for several years to regulate digital and censor speech on social networks. At the beginning of 2020, the country had blocked all messages mentioning the pandemic to hide the reality of the facts. Today, the objective of the authorities is to block all criticism against its management of the crisis and its economic fallout. In early June, Chinese influencer Li Jiaqi disappeared from the networks after he spoke about the events in Tian’anmen Square by showing a tank-shaped cake in a live video.