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    Liking ‘Illegal’ Social Media Posts to be Punished in China

    Authorities are putting more onus on users and online platforms to monitor cyberspace, but details on penalties are still scant.

    China’s internet watchdog is hightening its oversight of both online platforms and users, as it intensifies its policing of cyberspace.

    Starting Dec. 15, online users will be liable for any “likes” on posts that are deemed illegal and abusive, the Cyberspace Administration of China said in a new guideline, though there were no specifications on what would be classified as such content or the punishments that would be handed as per the law. Meanwhile, all online sites are required to have a trained “auditing and editing team” for real-time monitoring, reporting, and deleting content that meets the vaguely defined criteria.

    The new rules also ordered online platforms to develop a rating system for users based on their past social media posts and comments, though the criteria for such ratings weren’t specified. Users with a poor score — labeled as “dishonest users” — will be added to a blacklist, banning them from registering new accounts on the platform.

    All comments on news stories posted online must be audited by platforms before they’re visible to the public, and users will be warned accordingly, the cyber watchdog said. Platforms are also required to report any violations to the cyber watchdog.

    The guidelines come at a time when the authorities are strictly scrutinizing online content in an attempt to sanitize the web and promote “core socialist values” online. They now put greater onus on social media sites, which have implemented their own rules to police users.

    Earlier this year, several social media platforms — including short-video site Douyin, the microblogging site Weibo, and the multipurpose app WeChat — began displaying users’ IP locations on their profile pages and posts to safeguard cyberspace. In August, Weibo also said users’ comments on certain posts will be displayed on their profile in a warning for them to be cautious of what they say online.

    Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

    (Header image: VCG)