Internet

Fourteen regulators wrangle over blogs

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Yesterday's Economic Information Daily, a Xinhua newspaper, took a look at some of the problems involved in Internet regulation, and blog regulation in particular. The information is familiar, but this article illustrates the regulatory thicket by listing off a surprising number of government departments that have their hooks in online media. An excerpt:

Who is governing blogs? From an interview with an authoritative industry insider, this reporter learned that at no individual or legal statute has drawn a distinction. Because the country had divided up responsibility for Internet governance according to the format and content of data, there is in practice governance by multiple departments. But a single blog may concern many areas, like current affairs and politics, culture, education, health, or publishing, and according to this system, ten or more departments bear the responsibility for governance of this blog.

Wei Yongzheng, researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and professor at the Communication University of China, said that governance of new Internet sectors like blogs lags far behind the actualities of how blogs and other sectors are developing, and exposes in sharp relief the mismanagement of the country's system of multi-pronged Internet governance. This reporter learned that at the very least, the entities that are responsible for approval of website establishment, business operation, and content management include: CPC Publicity Department, State Council Information Office, Ministry of Information Industry, General Administration of Press and Publication, State Administration of Radio, Film and TV, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, State Administration of Industry and Commerce, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of State Security, Chinese Academy of Sciences, State Secrecy Bureau, and the State Secret Code Regulatory Commission.

Under the multi-headed governance system, running a general-content website always requires running around to a dozen different departments to arrange the necessary approvals and certifications. Take Sina, one of China's largest commercial websites, as an example: after obtaining the license to operate an Internet business, it had to file records for approval for different business services with different departments. Xu Yi, assistant to the vice-editor in chief at Sina, said that most web managers could not say precisely which of the dozen departments were in charge of which particular area of work, unless they had directly obtained approval.

Huang Chengqing, head of the Internet Society of China, believes that although these departments in general are in charge of separate areas, there are too many of them, and there will certainly be problems where the limits of responsibilities are unclear. Governance of online cultural content, for example, is unavoidably the concern of several departments: MoC, GAPP, and SARFT. Overlapping content management not only leads to a blurring of the governance responsibilities of respective departments, but also leads to high costs and inefficient management of the Internet.

The article concludes with a sketch of three possible areas for improvement (in summary):

  1. A framework should be set up to take the place of the regulatory hydra that exists now; a specialized entity could world on implementing more cohesive regulations rather than throwing up hastily-put-together rules in response to the latest online crisis;
  2. Oversight should be left in the hands of service providers. Huang Chengqing says that decentralization is the biggest problem with regulating blogs: "anyone can run a blog anywhere they please, and even apply for their own domain name to run a blog." He advocates consolidation of service providers, after which the government can step back from direct governance. Does this mean the end for personal domains?
  3. Service providers could be managed by a point system similar to the one used for traffic violations — too many mishandled infractions, and you lose the right to host blogs.
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There are currently 2 Comments for Fourteen regulators wrangle over blogs.

Comments on Fourteen regulators wrangle over blogs

My favorite quote is "anyone can run a blog from anywhere they please..."

Yes, that's the point. That's why it's great.

Yes, running a blog is not strictly, if any, regulated and that's why so many people like blogging. You can say what you want and have an opinion on it from anyone, anyplace. Isn't it great?

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