In the latest series of crackdowns on internet freedom, cyberspace authorities in China have ordered internet providers to shut down 60 of the popular celebrity gossip social media accounts.
In the world of entertainment, celebrity gossip is an intrinsic element to connect between celebrities and their fans that are always thirsty for juicy stories. However, to authorities in China, gossip reporters are considered as a threat to public order. At a meeting last Wednesday, Beijing bureau of the Cyberspace Administration of China officials obliged representatives of internet companies in China and website operators, such as: Tencent and Baidu to “actively propagate core socialist values and create an ever more healthy environment for the mainstream public opinion” by taking control of their websites and shut down all coverage of celebrity gossip and scandals.
“Websites must … adopt effective measures to keep in check the problems of the embellishment of private sex scandals of celebrities, the hyping of ostentatious celebrity spending and entertainment, and catering to the poor taste of the public,” according to a post on the Beijing Cyberspace Administration’s social media account.
Right before his account was shut down, Tong Zongjin, an associate Professor of China University of Political science and Law, said on his Weibo:
The crackdown on celebrity gossip social media accounts involves not only the political rights, but also the property rights. If any account wants to take legal action, I’d like to provide free legal service.
Celebrity gossip websites used to make a steady and mammoth profit from tabloids. For example, before it was shuttered, China’s no.1 paparazzo Zhuo Wei, aka“the Discipline Inspection Commission on stars and celebrities”, had more than seven million followers for his celebrity coverage and exposing celebrity scandals. Moreover, WeChat account of the fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar was also shut down.
“In China, there were only two areas before that we could say had news freedom: One was entertainment, and the other was sports,” said Gao Ming, host of the podcast Radio HiLight and a former editor at AsiaContent.com, an online entertainment news company. “But now I think the government is trying to send a message that all the news needs to be within its control.”
It is very clear that this will not be the last mass crack down of online sources in China. President Xi Jinping himself has reportedly been overseeing the measures his government is taking to control social media and online news portals.