China purges 1.4m social media posts in crackdown on 'self-media' accounts

Web Desk
A sign above an office of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) is seen in Beijing, China July 8, 2021.—Reuters
A sign above an office of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) is seen in Beijing, China July 8, 2021.—Reuters 

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) recently reported the removal of 1.4 million social media posts as a result of a rigorous crackdown on "self-media" accounts.

Over a span of two months, the CAC conducted an extensive probe targeting alleged offences, including the dissemination of misinformation, illegal profiteering, and the impersonation of state officials. In a statement released on Friday, the CAC disclosed that between March 10 and May 22, it closed down 67,000 social media accounts and eradicated hundreds of thousands of posts, as part of a comprehensive "rectification" campaign.

China has been actively pursuing a strategy to cleanse its cyberspace and facilitate tighter control by authorities. Since 2021, the country has focused on regulating billions of social media accounts. The recent crackdown concentrated specifically on "self-media" accounts, referring to those that publish news and information independently, without government affiliation or state approval. Major Chinese social media platforms such as WeChat, Douyin, and Weibo were targeted during this operation.

The Chinese government has a track record of arresting citizens and censoring accounts that share or disseminate factual information deemed sensitive or critical of the Communist Party, the government, or the military, particularly when such content goes viral. According to the CAC, out of the 67,000 permanently closed accounts, nearly 8,000 were removed for propagating fake news, rumours, and harmful content.

Additionally, around 930,000 other accounts received lesser penalties, ranging from loss of followers to temporary suspension or cancellation of profit-making privileges. In a separate campaign, the regulator recently shut down over 100,000 accounts that were reportedly misrepresenting news anchors and media agencies, countering the rise of online fake news facilitated by AI technologies.

The CAC's latest efforts also targeted approximately 13,000 fraudulent military accounts, featuring names like "Chinese Red Army Command," "Chinese Anti-terrorist Force," and "Strategic Missile Force." Another 25,000 accounts were identified for impersonating public institutions, such as disease control centres and state-run research institutes.

Additionally, around 187,000 accounts faced consequences for pretending to be news media outlets, while over 430,000 were accused of offering professional advice or educational services without the required qualifications. Approximately 45,000 accounts were closed for hyping trending topics, pursuing popularity, and engaging in illegal monetisation.

The CAC emphasised its active collaboration with public security and market supervision departments to deal a significant blow to illegal "self-media" accounts. It also called upon netizens to actively participate in monitoring and reporting such illicit activities, encouraging joint efforts to maintain a clean and regulated cyberspace.