Online streaming services in China are taking another hit from regulators. The National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications—a government body tasked with cleaning up China’s web—has issued a new notice laying out rules to regulate one of the country’s favorite pass-times.

Live streaming platforms will be required to “implement the real-name system for users, strengthen the management of online streaming anchors, establish a blacklist system for anchors, and improve the monitoring and censorship system for live broadcast content as well as measures for dealing with illegal and harmful content.”

What’s more, network service providers are required to establish systems for content auditing, information filtering, and a 7 x 24-hour emergency response mechanism in case of porn or other “harmful information” on the loose. Live streaming platforms will be required to record and log information from users and keep them for an unspecified amount of time. They are also required to provide all data to relevant departments upon request.

The stipulation is likely to be a strain on live streaming platform’s capacities as all this online babble will have to be stored. Network access services will not be allowed to provide services anymore to platforms that do not have storage capacity.

Sexy dancing, smoking and secret events: How do you monitor live streaming?

The Office, which in Chinese goes by the catchy name of “Clean the Pornographic, Strike the Illegal ” (扫黄打非) has been cracking down with force this year. In May, the Office reported that more than an astonishing 22,000 pornography sites have been shut down, while in July it announced that 9.8 million illegal publications were confiscated in the first half of 2018. One Chinese online platform owner received a 7-year prison sentence for hosting 28 pornographic videos on its app.

Crackdowns on Chinese live streaming sites reached their peak during this year’s March and April with many popular apps and video platforms forced to clean up or shut down. Online games have also suffered under the watchful eye of regulators, ultimately leading to the fall of stock prices of Tencent, China’s largest game publisher.

The Notice on Strengthening the Management of Network Live Broadcasting Services issued by the Office along with six other government bodies on August 20 is meant to clarify the duties of online streaming services, network access service providers, and app stores.

The notice implies that the rampant spread of pornography and other “harmful information” are due to companies not fulfilling their bureaucratic duties. Live streaming platforms have been avoiding to properly register with relevant authorities which includes submitting their domain, IPs, addresses, and ICP licenses. ICP (Internet Content Provider) licenses have been prerequisite for China-based websites to operate in the country since 2000—websites without the license get blocked.

The notice also stated that app stores will not be allowed to give services to live streaming platforms that are blacklisted or do not have an ICP license. The warning to app stores comes just after news that Apple has taken down 25,000 illegal gambling apps from their Chinese App Store. Last July, Apple was forced to remove “all major VPN apps.”

Masha Borak is a technology reporter based in Beijing. Write to her at masha.borak [at] Pitches with the word "disruptive" will be ignored. Read a good book - learn some more adjectives.

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