China’s Video Sites Ordered to Censor Content


If you run a video website in China, you will now be charged with a daunting task: watch all your content and censor out any questionable content before posting.

China’s new online video censorship rules came this week via the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), China’s official broadcast regulation bureau. SARFT made the pre-screening policy known through a statement released to Chinese press that was later reported on by The Register.

Chinese video websites can be held legally liable if they fail to comply with the self-screening and censorship policy.

SARFT claims that the target of the new rules is content which depicts “violence, pornography and some swearing,” adding that the pre-screening policy is a response to pressure from Chinese citizens to “protect young people’s physical and mental health in accordance with the law.”

However, a spokesperson from popular Chinese video site Youku told the BBC that if content is “anti-[Communist] party and anti-society,” it will “definitely… not pass,” a condition which may alarm Internet freedom advocates around the world.

The Chinese government is known for aggressively censoring online content.

Its “Great Firewall of China” blocks Chinese citizens from accessing many foreign websites — including the popular video-sharing platform YouTube.

On top of that, it has a team of hundreds of official censors who actively crawl the Chinese web looking for content the government deems questionable. Those censors often play a game of digital cat-and-mouse with Chinese Internet users, most recently when users were looking for information about Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng.

Foreign companies employ a variety of methods to do business in China. Google China, which has a fractious relationship with the Chinese government, houses its servers in Hong Kong, which has a high degree of autonomy from mainland China. The New York Times, which recently opened a Chinese-language platform, also hosts its content outside mainland China.

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