05/03/2017, 13.59
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China to tighten controls on online news, create new Chinese Wikipedia

New rules will come into force on 1st June. All online news producers will need a government permit. Joint ventures with foreign media will need a security assessment. Chinese journalists will no longer be able to produce their own news content. China is ranked 176th in terms of world press freedom. The new Chinese encyclopedia will have 600,000 fewer articles than Wikipedia and will be written by specialised staff. Internet users will not be able to contribute. For Wikipedia co-founder, censorship is “stupid."

Beijing (AsiaNews) – China’s internet regulator has issued new tighter regulations banning private domestic and foreign companies from news production and dissemination.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has decided that organisations offering internet information services operated in joint ventures or with foreign investors must submit to it for a security check.

This is the first major regulatory overhaul in 12 years across internet and social media formats.

All online publishers – including websites, apps, instant-messaging apps, blogs, social media accounts and forums – must obtain permits from the authorities to publish news or commentaries online under the Internet News Information Service Regulations that will take effect on 1st June.

No foreign company can enter the news market or invest in news-production. The editor-in-chief of any online news service must be a Chinese national and the organisation must be registered in the mainland.

Chinese media are already tightly controls. They cannot cover many topics on their own, and must follow official channels (Xinhua, People's Daily, etc.).

Until now, many foreign sources of information were accessible via internet or smartphone, although some outlets were blocked, including the New York Times, Bloomberg and even AsiaNews.

Thanks to foreign servers, many users are able to get around censorship and read and enjoy such news.

China this year ranked 176th – fifth from the bottom – on the World Press Freedom Index compiled by the NGO Reporters without Borders.

Internet censors last year closed a number of news channels on leading domestic internet portals including Sina.com and Sohu.com, banning their websites’ editorial staff from doing their own reporting or producing original content.

Early this year, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology launched a campaign against unauthorised internet connections, including virtual private network services that enable internet users to bypass the Great Firewall.

In addition to new regulations, China yesterday announced plans to launch its own national online encyclopedia next year, to compete with Wikipedia.

Officials said more than 20,000 people have been hired to work on the project, which will feature 300,000 articles at about a thousand words each. Chinese Wikipedia currently has more than 900,000 articles.

Unlike Wikipedia, the new Chinese encyclopedia will be created by selected scholars from state-run universities rather than being openly editable by volunteers.

Wikipedia is available in China, but some of its content – such as Tibet, Xi Jinping, trade unions, etc. – is blocked.

Plans for a government encyclopedia date back to 2011, and will be implemented by next year.

In 2016, the co-founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales tried to come to terms with the Chinese government.

"I went to the ministry in charge of censorship," he explained at the time. "It was a kind of diplomatic mission to try and make them change their minds. We have been clear: we will not censor Wikipedia to please the Chinese government. I'm ready to wait a thousand years because I'm sure China will end up changing, [and will] find [censorship of Wikipedia] stupid.”

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