China’s online censors target ‘pessimism’ on digital platforms

Content policy moderation in China aims to root out pessimistic content on digital platforms as criticism of the country’s political economy grows.

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The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has unveiled a campaign targeting the spread of videos that ‘propagate rumours about people’s lives or promote incorrect values’, such as pessimism and extremism. The movement, known as ‘Qing Lang’, seeks to improve people’s ‘mental health and foster a healthy competitive environment’ for developing the short video industry.

Notably, this year’s campaign addresses pessimism for the first time, likely due to economic struggles faced by the country in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cyberspace Administration has outlined a list of ‘incorrect values’ it aims to eliminate from the internet, including erroneous career values, the promotion of pessimism and extremism, and idolising extravagance and money. The crackdown will focus specifically on content producers who fabricate stories about social minorities to gain public sympathy. It will target individuals who stage incidents, create false plots, and spread panic. The news text also highlights the circulation of online videos depicting the challenges faced by prospective homebuyers affected by the property sector crisis. These videos have sparked concerns among internet users about their economic prospects. Consequently, the crackdown aims to address the dissemination of such videos and protect the interests of those affected.

In addition to targeting fake short videos, the campaign aims to prohibit the use of AI-generated videos that manipulate or fabricate content, including those that illegally use other people’s voices or faces. This move seeks to safeguard the integrity of content shared on social media platforms and ensure the dissemination of accurate information.

Why does it matter?

The CAC has been running an annual online crackdown known as Qing Lang( which means clear and bright), since 2020. The results saw the suspension of approximately 1.35 billion accounts, the deletion of 76 million illegal or improper messages, and the closure of 10,500 websites between 2021 and 2022.