China’s education ministry bans harmful apps from school campuses

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Chinese education authorities and schools will ban apps that they deem to be harmful to student development from campuses around the country, highlighting the central government’s tightening control over mobile platforms.

China’s Ministry of Education issued the order on Dec. 28 calling for “immediate action” countrywide. The notice was made public yesterday.

“From now on, uncensored educational apps will be banned in schools,” the ministry said. Apps or WeChat Official Accounts that feature pornographic and violent content, online gaming, and advertising will be defined as harmful and should be immediately deleted from mobile devices.

Since the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) appointed Zhuang Rongwen as its new head in August last year, Beijing has been cracking down on mobile platforms it perceives to be “poisonous” to the country’s youth. This follows calls by China’s President Xi Jinping to create a “clean and righteous cyberspace.”

The education ministry has instructed staff from middle and primary schools to conduct a series of internal investigations to identify WeChat accounts and apps that could have a negative impact on students. Internet police will join the investigation targeting “illegal” apps.

A new filing and inspection procedure will also be implemented in the nationwide cleanup. School administrators will report selected apps to local authorities for approval before using them in teaching activities.

Teachers are also forbidden to recommend apps to students without approval, while taking more time to inform parents “to be cautious about downloading apps for their children.”

Chinese mobile service providers have faced increased scrutiny over the past year. Apart from the state’s education ministry, the CAC has also taken measures to crack down on apps it deems to be harmful, recently shutting down nearly 3,500 mobile apps related to pornographic, gambling, and gaming content.

In November, the national cyber watchdog censured more than 10 social networking and online media websites including Wechat, Weibo, Baidu and ByteDance’s Jinri Toutiao for creating online disorder by disseminating vulgar content and spreading rumors.