Issues over problematic content prompt Chinese tech giants to turn to CPC members for guidance
Chinese tech companies are deciding to rely on Communist Party of China (CPC) members to scrutinize their content, in order to better bring it in accordance with socialist core values.
Zhang Yiming, founder of Jinri Toutiao, one of China's most popular news aggregators, apologized on the app on Wednesday as the company had "over-emphasized technology, but ignored the fact that technology should be used to guide users with socialist core values, spread positive energy, meet the requirements of the times and respect public order and good customs."
Zhang's comments came after his app was removed from online stores on Monday, and its dirty joke app Neihan Duanzi was permanently shut down for containing vulgar content the following day.
The app has recorded 120 million daily active users to date, according to background data released by the company.
Along with Jinri Toutiao, three other popular news apps, Phoenix News, NetEase News and Tiantian Kuaibao, were also removed from online app shops on Monday, in order to "regulate the dissemination of information," said these information platforms.
Following them, Douyin, a video clip app, closed its live broadcast and comments, in order to upgrade and provide better services to its users. Moreover, the app will launch an anti-addiction system, news site thepaper.cn reported on Wednesday.
Although technology is crucial to these Internet companies, humans are still more trusted to help clean up the Internet environment and clamp down on content deemed not to be in accordance with socialist core values.
In his apology letter, Zhang pledged to increase the number of staff dedicated to overseeing content from 6,000 to 10,000, while creating a blacklist of banned users and developing better technology to boost content monitoring.
Jinri Toutiao is not an isolated case.
China's top media watchdog, the State Administration of Radio and Television, asked short video app Kuaishou to rectify itself for disregarding regulations and "disrupting social order" last week.
Kuaishou has since said it will add another 3,000 employees to oversee content. The employees must have a high degree of political consciousness, and members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Communist Youth League Committee (CYLC) are preferred, said news site thepaper.cn.
Su Hua, CEO of Kuaishou, said earlier this month, "We must add some humanistic perspective to algorithms. I believe algorithms have their value, but we must make them realize and amplify the values we insist on," the Science and Technology Daily reported.
Wang Sixin, a law professor at the Beijing-based Communication University of China, told the Global Times that hiring people with a high degree of political consciousness and CPC, CYLC members will help these companies monitor information according to the country's and the Party's perspective.
"They are also more suitable for overseeing content. After all, they are approved by the country and the Party," Wang noted.
Many netizens applauded the crackdown. "There were just too many rumors and too much illegal content on these apps, which affected user experience a lot," said Sina Weibo user Ningbiye.
Wang added that that to better regulate the market, government regulators should strengthen law enforcement and impose harsher penalties on news platforms that publish illegal content.
China has launched three campaigns against illicit cultural content in its bid to foster a "positive" and "healthy" cultural environment.
A cyberspace regulation campaign will target all pornographic content on mobile applications, live-streaming platforms, online games, chat groups, and pop-up ads, Xinhua reported on Monday.
Since 2015, China has shut down or revoked the licenses of more than 13,000 illegal websites, Xinhua reported in December 2017, adding that authorities including the Cyberspace Administration of China have called over 2,200 website operators for talks during the same period.
Furthermore, we-media providers are also being asked to obtain "news information service" licenses before they provide news to the public through websites, applications, forums, blogs, microblogs, public accounts, online live-streaming and other methods, according to China's new regulation on the administration of Internet news services, which came into effect on June 1, 2017.