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China blocked 54.3 million items online in 2022, after snitches sent 170 million tips

Regulator warns it's far from finished and the deletions will continue until morale improves

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has put numbers to its drive to reshape the local internet, claiming it cleaned up 54.3 million pieces of information it deemed illegal and bad in 2022 alone.

The CAC announced that during 2022 it had also removed 420 mobile applications and closed more than 25,000 illegal websites. Shutdowns of live broadcast and short video platforms for pornographic or illegal content and gambling tallied 106. Developers for such platforms were blocklisted.

Tencent's game streaming sites DouYu and Huya, and Douyin – the app known as TikTok outside China – were mentioned alongside other platforms shamed for spreading pornographic material, vulgarity and abuse. The three were fined and told to clean up their acts – mild punishment compared to the thousands of other sites that were shuttered by the regulator.

In May of last year the CAC published guidelines to stop livestreaming platforms like Huya, DouYu and Douyin from soliciting money and gifts from minors.

Not all of the actions mentioned above were the result of CAC assessments of sites' content. The regulator also enabled a crowdsourcing of internet governance, using more than 4,100 reporting channels. Netizens collectively reported 172 million cases of "harmful information such as pornography, gambling, infringement and rumors."

Meanwhile in India

China may be erasing over a million pieces of content a week, but it shut down the internet just once in 2022, according to lobby group Access Now's annual "Keep it on" campaign's assessment [PDF] of enforced internet outages.

India topped the group's charts with 84 government-ordered outages during 2022, well ahead of second-placed Ukraine's 22.

According to the CAC, publishing the data above is not a mission accomplished declaration – it has its mind set on more online crackdowns.

The regulator has been on a mission to make the internet "more civilized" since 2020. It issued edict after edict, targeting everything from digital fan clubs to more internationally consequential personal data protection.

Last August it seemed like the crackdowns could slow down as the CAC signalled in a press conference it would like to smooth growing tensions between industry and government. At that time Beijing also eased restriction on video games – which it once labelled "spiritual opium" – and reversed a ban on tech companies listing off shore.

The fervor with which the CAC continues these promised crackdowns will surely reveal itself in 2023. ®

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