China censors drop the soap operas, sitcoms

That's the bad news. The good news is they've banned Bieber, too

Analysis A disturbing trend toward ever-greater censorship in China has seemingly crossed a line with the banning and blocking... well, fun, basically.

Today's headline is that the communist government in charge has formally banned pop star Justin Bieber from performing in the country due to his "bad behavior," but a far more insidious set of controls have been introduced this week, including a block on movies, sitcoms and even soap operas.

The most popular video streaming sites in the country have removed the majority of their material from countries such as the US, UK, Japan and South Korea, with the ban seemingly built on the country of origin rather than the content.

Among the shows to have disappeared are Japanese animations and Korean soap operas – which are hugely popular across the country, especially with young people.

China has also swung its increasingly sophisticated censorship apparatus onto the issue, with users reporting that they are no longer able to post clips or videos of their favorite shows.

One of the most popular video streaming sites, Bilibili, announced in response to a wave of complaints from its users that all of its video content was being reviewed to "meet regulatory standards." Those standards include a new requirement that foreign shows account for no more than 10 per cent of the overall content available.

For several weeks, the Chinese authorities have been introducing a range of new restrictions and enforcing existing ones. Earlier this month, several popular VPN services closed down after they received a "notice from regulatory departments."

Chinese internet users frequently use VPNs to bypass censorship, to the extent that it has become almost habitual. That led the government to declare that all VPN providers would need to apply for a license to operate. When those rules started being imposed, many VPN services have decided to shut down rather than follow the licensing requirements – which typically involve blocking sites from a government-provided list and giving the government backend access.


Last month, the government also passed new rules that will censor information that does not reflect the country's "core socialist values." That was initially understood to cover topics such as drugs and homosexuality, but in the past week it appears to have spread to encompass anything that the censors decide they don't like – including the social media accounts of celebrities.

And just last week, the authorities revealed the extent of their expanded surveillance systems by managing to delete images in transit on the most popular messaging apps following the death of political activist Liu Xiaobo. Any mention of Xiaobo or his wife was methodically deleted, and apps such as WhatsApp, which the Chinese government does not have direct access to, were either completely or partially blocked.

In place of all the content produced outside China, the government has said that it wants its citizens to watch more videos that are inspiring and patriotic – which typically means TV shows that adopt a rose-tinted view of Chinese history and in particular the Chinese revolution of 1949.

Chinese internet users have grown used to having their online world censored and have learned to steer clear of making politically charged comments online. But for the most part, they have been left alone to browse the world's offerings through the internet, and have learned to use VPNs to get access to banned websites. The loss of Facebook and Twitter has been minimal thanks to the use of Chinese social media companies that in many respects are more advanced than the famous Western versions.

That uncomfortable balance has likely been lost with these latest efforts by the central government to force its citizens to conform with what they feel is the correct way for Chinese people to behave and think. And that is causing concern that the next Tiananmen Square could be coming up, as the burgeoning young population starts to view their government as less a benevolent dictator than an interfering and possibly negative influence in their lives. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Narrower topics

Other stories you might like

  • North Korea pulled in $400m in cryptocurrency heists last year – report

    Plus: FIFA 22 players lose their identity and Texas gets phony QR codes

    In brief Thieves operating for the North Korean government made off with almost $400m in digicash last year in a concerted attack to steal and launder as much currency as they could.

    A report from blockchain biz Chainalysis found that attackers were going after investment houses and currency exchanges in a bid to purloin funds and send them back to the Glorious Leader's coffers. They then use mixing software to make masses of micropayments to new wallets, before consolidating them all again into a new account and moving the funds.

    Bitcoin used to be a top target but Ether is now the most stolen currency, say the researchers, accounting for 58 per cent of the funds filched. Bitcoin accounted for just 20 per cent, a fall of more than 50 per cent since 2019 - although part of the reason might be that they are now so valuable people are taking more care with them.

    Continue reading
  • Tesla Full Self-Driving videos prompt California's DMV to rethink policy on accidents

    Plus: AI systems can identify different chess players by their moves and more

    In brief California’s Department of Motor Vehicles said it’s “revisiting” its opinion of whether Tesla’s so-called Full Self-Driving feature needs more oversight after a series of videos demonstrate how the technology can be dangerous.

    “Recent software updates, videos showing dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the opinions of other experts in this space,” have made the DMV think twice about Tesla, according to a letter sent to California’s Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), chair of the Senate’s transportation committee, and first reported by the LA Times.

    Tesla isn’t required to report the number of crashes to California’s DMV unlike other self-driving car companies like Waymo or Cruise because it operates at lower levels of autonomy and requires human supervision. But that may change after videos like drivers having to take over to avoid accidentally swerving into pedestrians crossing the road or failing to detect a truck in the middle of the road continue circulating.

    Continue reading
  • Alien life on Super-Earth can survive longer than us due to long-lasting protection from cosmic rays

    Laser experiments show their magnetic fields shielding their surfaces from radiation last longer

    Life on Super-Earths may have more time to develop and evolve, thanks to their long-lasting magnetic fields protecting them against harmful cosmic rays, according to new research published in Science.

    Space is a hazardous environment. Streams of charged particles traveling at very close to the speed of light, ejected from stars and distant galaxies, bombard planets. The intense radiation can strip atmospheres and cause oceans on planetary surfaces to dry up over time, leaving them arid and incapable of supporting habitable life. Cosmic rays, however, are deflected away from Earth, however, since it’s shielded by its magnetic field.

    Now, a team of researchers led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) believe that Super-Earths - planets that are more massive than Earth but less than Neptune - may have magnetic fields too. Their defensive bubbles, in fact, are estimated to stay intact for longer than the one around Earth, meaning life on their surfaces will have more time to develop and survive.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022