China's Internet Celebrities Given Seven Guidelines On Self Censorship

Weibo
Southern Weekend's fed-up editors publicly spoke out on Chinese microblogging site Weibo, claiming that the article allegedly written by Tuo Zhen, a provincial-level official, was "raping" the newspaper's autonomy. Reuters

It’s no question that China’s social media platforms, like Sina Weibo or Tencent’s WeChat, have the backing of millions of Chinese new media-savvy netizens. With the help of China’s top celebrities on various social media platforms, China’s government hopes to harness the millions of ever-growing active netizens into taking on more social responsibility.

According to a report by Tech In Asia, a gathering of some of China’s most followed celebrities on popular Twitter-like platform Weibo met up this past weekend for a meeting at the headquarters of CCTV, China’s state-run television network, in Beijing. The meeting was reportedly set up by government officials that wanted to use the celebrity’s positions as a way of propagating helpful social ideals for society.

One of China’s official newspapers, the People’s Daily, wrote a brief article about the meeting, calling the content described in the meeting as guidelines to protecting “seven minimums.”

“Everyone agreed that Internet celebrities should take on additional social responsibilities [so] that the group reached a common agreement to protect ‘seven minimums,’” the People’s Daily wrote, according to a translation by Tech In Asia. “The first is the legal minimum, the second is the socialist minimum, the third is the national interest minimum, the fourth is the lawful citizens’ interests minimum, the fifth is the public order minimum, the sixth is the moral traditions minimum, and the seventh is the accurate information minimum.”

The People’s Daily did not go into detail about the amount of guidance the government was providing on all the given categories, but the general sentiment suggests that these seven items are key elements that should be promoted and kept in mind when writing or sharing information on social media. For example, in the past, Chinese officials have cracked down on the posting of false or inaccurate information being posted online because it violates the seventh minimum and likely can perpetuate public upheaval, which would also violate the fifth minimum.

According to an account by Global Voices, the guidelines were drafted up by the head of the State Internet Information Office, Lu Wei, and were signed by the celebrities in attendance. The rules are apparently a way for China’s most influential bloggers to self-regulate their own content and are not, in fact, punishable by law. Still, coming out of the meeting, it seems that not all in attendance were on board. Global Voices is reporting that Internet celebrity and real estate magnate behind Soho Pan Shiyi was among the people who attended the conversation but left with more questions than answers.

“People should not be considered a passive subject who need to be educated or channeled… I don’t think [online celebrities] should be responsible for lifting people’s morality. It won’t work,” he was reported saying. 

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