China’s Internet is one of the most censored in the world, and now could face even fiercer censorship thanks to new regulations set to come into effect next January.
Under the new rules, announced on Monday, companies that provide or host music will need to examine what’s being made available before it’s posted to ensure it’s appropriate for public consumption, as per China’s Ministry of Culture. This means companies like Baidu and Tencent will need to create teams tasked specifically with weeding offensive songs out of their catalogues, the ministry said.
The result could be particularly unfortunate for Chinese fans of hip hop, with authorities having blacklisted dozens of rap songs in August, claiming they promote violence and obscenity.
The tightening control over online music is the latest attempt by the Chinese government to keep the Internet clean of offensive, pornographic and culturally inappropriate content. The People’s Republic is already well known for having a heavily censored Internet, with sites like Facebook, Google and Twitter being blocked behind what’s referred to as The Great Firewall of China.
The new rules cover not only songs, but also music videos. Media providers will be made to submit quarterly reports to the government on their music vetting efforts. Baidu, China’s Google equivalent, was contacted but declined to comment. Alibaba Group and Tencent, two other Chinese Internet giants with music streaming services, did not respond for comment.
In what could be a foreshadowing of what’s to come, the ministry banned 120 songs in August. Many of these came from hip-hop groups, including in3, who had their song “Hello Teacher”, a rap about cruel teachers, blacklisted. Others songs were banned for featuring titles referencing sex.
Even with strong censorship of content, Chinese companies have been aggressive in offering streaming entertainment, with the country having a massive 480 million Internet users who listen to online music, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.