China Cracks Down on Unauthorized News Apps

by Matt Klassen on October 1, 2013

Once again trying to grip the ever-expanding mobile world that seems to flow like sand through its collective fingers, the Chinese government launched a crackdown this week on unauthorized mobile news and media applications, aimed particularly at those that deliver news without state approval. According to Reuters, the government claims several of the news apps targeted in this operation provide “pornography and obscene information and harm the physical and mental health of youngsters,” thus providing the communist regime with the justification it needs to continue its quest for complete information control.

This latest action comes as part of China’s overall strategy to reign in its mobile market before its gets out of control, following the governments actions to curb online rumours about party members, its attempted control of social media, and its search for a Chinese tech company able to produce a China-centric mobile OS that would rival Android and iOS (and be easier to control).

What’s strange, of course, is that information control remains one of the last bastions of communism in the country, a fleeting attempt to manage what’s said about a government in a country that has all but rejected the principles of communism in favour of free market capitalism.

While China already blocks most major foreign media outlets and articles from its citizens there are mobile apps that are able to provide subscribers with a way around such blockades, allowing them to access foreign news from The New York Times among others.

The problem, of course, is that foreign media doesn’t adhere to China’s strict rules about maintaining face, meaning that anything critical of China, the communist party, or anything that provides information the government would rather keep quiet is deemed to be detrimental to the people, and thus banned.

To that end, the Chinese State Internet Information Office has identified several of these unauthorized news applications, including Zaker, which publishes information from foreign newspapers to a reported 17.5 users, and Chouti, an app whose revolutionary motto is “Publish all that should not be published.”

Chinese authorities have now been tasked with forcing these illegal mobile news apps to rectify themselves with Chinese laws, threatening to close down those who fail to comply in order “to maintain order of news dissemination on the mobile internet”.

But the real question is, can China plug the leaks in the dam of mobile information dissemination? As mentioned, the country has taken steps to remove the anonymity of the Internet, has restricted access to social media, and is now forcing compliance from apps that offer a portal throughChina’s great firewall, but in my mind the damage is already done. The Chinese people fully realize the world of information not available to them (unlike the North Korean people for instance), and such knowledge coupled with a fluid and uncontrollable Internet means that while the actions of the Chinese government’s may temporarily stem the tide of unauthorized information, they won’t stop it.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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