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China Bans Influencers From Talking About Law and Medicine

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A livestreamer sells products at a JD outsourcing livestream company in Beijing, China on November 9, 2021.

A livestreamer sells products at a JD outsourcing livestream company in Beijing, China on November 9, 2021.
Photo: Jade Gao / AFP (Getty Images)

The Chinese government issued a long list of new guidelines for internet livestreamers and so-called influencers this week, according to a new report from the South China Morning Post and rules posted online. The new rules prohibit influencers from talking about topics like law, medicine, and finance, unless those internet personalities have some kind of qualifications. What “qualifications” are deemed acceptable? That part isn’t specified, as the Post points out.

The draconian new rules, 31 in total, include the need to have the “right tone in political orientation,” and “actively embody core socialist values,” according to Chinese state media outlet Xinhua. And while streamers are banned from criticizing Chinese-style communism, streamers are also banned from criticizing free-market-oriented reforms that have caused China’s economy to stray from Communist orthodoxy in the past few decades.

Using deepfakes or showing an “extravagant lifestyle” will also get you in trouble with China’s reportedly 50,000-deep internet police who are monitoring the internet for anything untoward. How do the new rules define an extravagant lifestyle? Luxury product and excess amounts of cash seem to fit the bill. Livestreamers are also banned from “belittling low-income groups to show off their wealth.”

The new guidelines also ban an “excessive waste of food,” something the Chinese government has really tried to crack down on in recent years. With 1.4 billion people and a generous, welcoming food culture in China (unlike those stingy Swedes), food waste can become a real problem.

Two government bodies jointly issued the new rules, according to Xinhua, including China’s National Radio and Television Administration, as well as the Ministry of Tourism and Culture. The rules apply to not just “performers who provide webcast, video, and audio services via the internet,” but also any version of artificial intelligence that delivers news, according to the report.

Watch out robots. China’s censorship regime is coming for you too.

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