New laws have come into place for Chinese influencers, including regulations that require any influencer giving advice on technical subjects like medicine, healthcare, or finance to first demonstrate they are qualified to do so. The new regulations also require expertise on what political positions are acceptable, and even how influencers should live.
The new rules were handed down in a document released on Wednesday. The State Administration of Radio and Television and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism are the group that has issued the Code of Conduct for Internet Anchors, as it is known, and aim to “further standardize the professional behavior of online anchors, strengthen the construction of professional ethics, and promote the healthy and orderly development of the industry.”
In other reports, it also appears that China has a long-term plan in place to review every single comment made across social media. The government will request social media platforms evaluate all comments before they are posted and to report any “illegal and harmful material” to the authorities, presumably with the threat of regulation if they fail to do so.
Internet anchor code of safety
The topic of influencers and the way they influence public thinking on certain issues has been a hot one since before COVID-19 swept the globe, with controversy going back to Jenny McCarthy’s ‘vaccines cause autism’ debacle.
In recent years, Spotify star and MMA commentator Joe Rogan has drawn widespread criticism for not only platforming potentially harmful views on his show but even commenting on medical matters himself, despite being unqualified in the field.
The regulations around “live broadcast content that requires a high level of professionalism (such as medical and health care, finance, law, education)” seek to solve this issue in China at least. According to the document, the influencer should not only obtain the corresponding qualifications but also submit proof of said qualification to the broadcast platform, which will then be asked to “conduct qualification review and recordation of the anchor.”
Streamers should be healthy, not vulgar…
In addition to regulations about what influencers can speak about, there are also rules aimed at promoting a certain lifestyle if you want to work in this field. The Chinese regulators require their influencers to “adhere to a healthy style and taste, consciously abandon vulgar, vulgar, kitsch and other low-level interests, consciously oppose traffic-oriented, deformed aesthetics.”
This, in addition to the comment moderation proposal has seen some pushback on the social media site Weibo, according to china-underground.com. Users there are increasingly concerned about a lack of freedom of expression online, with one citizen asking “What it will be like to hear only one specific voice is beyond my comprehension (of opinion). Will people believe that there is just one voice in reality?”
China’s battle with censorship and freedom of information is not a new one, but the challenge of keeping the population in the dark has become exponentially greater with the advent of the internet, and more recently VPNs and other such services. The power of the government is still considerable though, with one influencer vanishing after a ‘tank-like’ cake appeared on his stream in the runup to the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre, a topic the government seeks to censor to this day.