As of last week, posting a message that the Chinese government deems inaccurate on social media platforms can get you three years in the slammer, provided it gets 500 retweets (or their equivalent) or 5,000 views. At least, that’s what the law said. But would the new policy, part of the Chinese government’s draconian crackdown on “online rumors,” be enforced?
An influential Communist Party journal on Monday decried online speech critical of the ruling Communist Party and government, comparing internet rumours to denunciation posters during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. “There are some who make use of the open freedom of cyberspace to engage in wanton defamation, attacking the party and the government,” said the journal Qiushi, which means ”seeking truth” in Chinese.
Social media in China, which has nearly 600 million users, has long been recognized as a political game-changer. In a country where a one-party regime maintains tight censorship over traditional media, the relative freedom of expression available via Chinese social media, particularly Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter), has made it a powerful platform for rallying public opinion.
China's 591 million web users are encouraged to think twice about information they share through social media in order to avoid serious punishment. Anyone caught using social media to spread "slanderous rumors" or "false information" about the government or politics can face up to 10 years in jail, according to a new legal interpretation of Internet restrictions.
Thousands of messages posted on the Internet every day in China get censored. Until now, little has been known about how the Chinese censorship machine works — except that it is comprehensive. "It probably is the largest effort ever to selectively censor human expression," says Harvard University social scientist Gary King. "They don't censor everything. There are millions of Chinese [who] talk about millions of things. But the effort to prune the Internet of certain kinds of information is unprecedented."
A controversial internet law prohibiting Vietnamese citizens from posting any content online that harms national security or opposes the state took effect Sunday. The new law, dubbed Decree 72, limits what Vietnamese citizens can post on their online personal pages, including Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Decree 72 does not elaborate on what constitutes a breach.
Six years of unremitting headlines on extreme violence and rampant crime has sullied Mexico’s reputation abroad. Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) and his confrontational “War on Drugs” grew increasingly unpopular over the years, resulting in the 2012 election of opposition party candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, who espoused a new security strategy and vision for Mexico.
More than 160 of Singapore’s most popular news blogs went dark on June 8. The protest was a cry for help against regulatory changes that would effectively shut down independent online media in the city-state. The regulations are part of a quiet censorship that has become popular with Southeast Asian governments, which are increasingly wary of bloggers and social media activism. Bloggers worry that citizens aren’t aware of how effective this soft approach is, or of its far-reaching consequences.