China's internet regulator squeezes famously freewheeling Reddit-alike

App already banned, now it's getting very close supervision


China's internet regulator, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), has taken unusually strong action against a social network that has long been considered a thorn in the side of the nation's elites.

The site in question is Douban: a Reddit-like affair that started life as a forum to discuss books, music, and film. In the years since its 2005 founding, the site has become known for attracting users who express opinions that China's government may well find displeasing. Commenters have, for example, generally been unafraid to share frank opinions of works considered to represent exceptional expressions of Chinese patriotism.

That culture has sparked numerous controversies – most famously when users downvoted the film The Wandering Earth, based on a novel of the same name by Chinese sci-fi author Liu Cixin, whose works are considered seminal contributions to the genre in China. Liu's novel, The Three Body Problem, took the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2015, and is being adapted for Netflix by the showrunners who made Game of Thrones. Dissing Liu is therefore a big deal.

Douban's app has already been banned and the organisation has been fined for leaking user data.

Yesterday, the CAC announced that its parent body, the State Internet Information Office, has declared that Douban is in a state of "chaos" and a "work supervision team" has therefore been stationed at Douban "to urge rectification."

The CAC frequently urges Chinese web companies to rectify their behavior and inspects their efforts to do so.

Sending a team in to observe Douban is a new level of – ahem – involvement in the affairs of a social network. That the intervention was conducted at a controversial company only makes it more noteworthy – but not unusual or entirely unexpected. In the last year China has repeatedly issued regulations aimed at cleansing its internet of lewd and controversial content.

Earlier this week, the CAC revealed draft guidelines for the protection of minors that include a requirement for device-makers to install a special kid-friendly content filter on the machines they sell, and for website operators and other electronic media to protect the interests of China's children at all times.

The new guidelines follow bans on gaming aimed at preventing youth from becoming addicted, a ban on the depiction of effeminate men, and numerous other crackdowns on content that's not felt to represent traditional or Party values. ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • ZTE intros 'cloud laptop' that draws just five watts of power
    The catch: It hooks up to desktop-as-a-service and runs Android – so while it looks like a laptop ...

    Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE has announced what it claims is the first "cloud laptop" – an Android-powered device that the consumes just five watts and links to its cloud desktop-as-a-service.

    Announced this week at the partially state-owned company's 2022 Cloud Network Ecosystem Summit, the machine – model W600D – measures 325mm × 215mm × 14 mm, weighs 1.1kg and includes a 14-inch HD display, full-size keyboard, HD camera, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. An unspecified eight-core processors drives it, and a 40.42 watt-hour battery is claimed to last for eight hours.

    It seems the primary purpose of this thing is to access a cloud-hosted remote desktop in which you do all or most of your work. ZTE claimed its home-grown RAP protocol ensures these remote desktops will be usable even on connections of a mere 128Kbit/sec, or with latency of 300ms and packet loss of six percent. That's quite a brag.

    Continue reading
  • Former chip research professor jailed for not disclosing Chinese patents
    This is how Beijing illegally accesses US tech, say Feds

    The former director of the University of Arkansas’ High Density Electronics Center, a research facility that specialises in electronic packaging and multichip technology, has been jailed for a year for failing to disclose Chinese patents for his inventions.

    Professor Simon Saw-Teong Ang was in 2020 indicted for wire fraud and passport fraud, with the charges arising from what the US Department of Justice described as a failure to disclose “ties to companies and institutions in China” to the University of Arkansas or to the US government agencies for which the High Density Electronics Center conducted research under contract.

    At the time of the indictment, then assistant attorney general for national security John C. Demers described Ang’s actions as “a hallmark of the China’s targeting of research and academic collaborations within the United States in order to obtain U.S. technology illegally.” The DoJ statement about the indictment said Ang’s actions had negatively impacted NASA and the US Air Force.

    Continue reading
  • TikTok US traffic defaults to Oracle Cloud, Beijing can (allegedly) still have a look
    Alibaba hinted the gig was worth millions each year

    The US arm of Chinese social video app TikTok has revealed that it has changed the default location used to store users' creations to Oracle Cloud's stateside operations – a day after being accused of allowing its Chinese parent company to access American users' personal data.

    "Today, 100 percent of US user traffic is being routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure," the company stated in a post dated June 18.

    "For more than a year, we've been working with Oracle on several measures as part of our commercial relationship to better safeguard our app, systems, and the security of US user data," the post continues. "We still use our US and Singapore datacenters for backup, but as we continue our work we expect to delete US users' private data from our own datacenters and fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers located in the US."

    Continue reading
  • Beijing-backed attackers use ransomware as a decoy while they conduct espionage
    They're not lying when they say 'We stole your data' – the lie is about which data they lifted

    A state-sponsored Chinese threat actor has used ransomware as a distraction to help it conduct electronic espionage, according to security software vendor Secureworks.

    The China-backed group, which Secureworks labels Bronze Starlight, has been active since mid-2021. It uses an HUI loader to install ransomware, such as LockFile, AtomSilo, Rook, Night Sky and Pandora. But cybersecurity firm Secureworks asserts that ransomware is probably just a distraction from the true intent: cyber espionage.

    "The ransomware could distract incident responders from identifying the threat actors' true intent and reduce the likelihood of attributing the malicious activity to a government-sponsored Chinese threat group," the company argues.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022