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China wants all social media comments to be pre-reviewed before publishing – MIT Technology Review

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China is fine-tuning its censorship machine, this time proposing changes in how to regulate the billions of online comments posted in the country every day.

On June 17, the internet regulator Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) published a draft update on the responsibilities of platforms and content creators in managing online comments. One line stands out: all online comments would have to be pre-reviewed before being published. Users and observers are worried that the move could be used to further tighten freedom of expression in China.

The new changes affect Provisions on the Management of Internet Post Comments Services, a regulation that first came into effect in 2017. Five years later, the Cyberspace Administration wants to bring it up to date. 

“The proposed revisions primarily update the current version of the comment rules to bring them into line with the language and policies of more recent authority, such as new laws on the protection of personal information, data security, and general content regulations,” says Jeremy Daum, a senior fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center. 

The provisions cover many types of comments, including anything from forum posts, replies, messages left on public message boards, and “bullet chats” (an innovative way that video platforms in China use to display real-time comments on top of a video). All formats, including texts, symbols, GIFs, pictures, audio, and videos, fall under this regulation. 

There’s a need for a stand-alone regulation on comments because the vast number makes them difficult to censor as rigorously as other content, like articles or videos, says Eric Liu, a former censor for Weibo who’s now researching Chinese censorship at China Digital Times. 

“One thing everyone in the censorship industry knows is that nobody pays attention to the replies and bullet chats. They are moderated carelessly, with minimum effort,” Liu says. 

But recently, there have been several awkward cases where comments under government Weibo accounts went rogue, pointing out government lies or rejecting the official narrative. That could be what has prompted the regulator’s proposed update.

Chinese social platforms are currently on the front lines of censorship work, often actively removing posts before the government and other users can even see them. ByteDance famously employs thousands of content reviewers, who make up the largest number of employees at the company. Other companies outsource the task to “censorship-for-hire” firms, including one owned by China’s party mouthpiece People’s Daily. The platforms are frequently punished for letting things slip.

Beijing is constantly refining its social media control, mending loopholes and introducing new restrictions. But the vagueness of the latest revisions makes people worry that the government may ignore practical challenges. For example, if the new rule about mandating pre-publish reviews is to be strictly enforced—which would require reading billions of public messages posted by Chinese users every day—it will force the platforms to dramatically increase the number of people they employ to carry out censorship. The tricky question is, no one knows if the government intends to enforce this immediately.

One specific change about “先审后发,” a censoring practice some Chinese social media platforms use to review content before it’s even published, has particularly caught people’s attention. On Weibo, the popular Twitter-like service, such stricter control measures are currently applied only to accounts that have violated content censorship rules before, or when there’s an ongoing heated discussion about a sensitive topic. The 2017 version limited such actions to “comments under news information,” so it didn’t need to be applied universally. But the new update takes out that restriction.

On social media, some Chinese users are worried that this means the practice can be expanded to cover every single comment online. Under one Weibo post about the change, the most liked comment says, “Is this restriction necessary? If only there’s a guarantee it won’t be abused.” 

That is an extreme interpretation of the proposed change, says Liu, because censoring every comment would incur astronomical costs to social media platforms. It’s unlikely Beijing will go so far to enforce blanket pre-publish censorship, but Liu says the revisions are more likely intended to force platforms to take more responsibility in moderating the comments section, which has traditionally been ignored.

Whether there is a pre-publish censorship system in place can determine where online social protests break out. In April, a video about the Shanghai covid lockdown went viral on WeChat Channels but not Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok—partly because the latter platform reviews every video before it’s published, while the former didn’t at the time.

The regulator is now seeking public comments on the proposed revisions until July 1, 2022, and they may not take effect for many months. Right now, discussions about how strictly they will be enforced are only speculative. But it’s clear that China is identifying the Great Firewall’s loopholes and updating its regulations to address them. The most recent changes are “unapologetically part of China’s continued expansion of content regulations beyond mainstream media to now cover user content generated through comments and other interactive features,” says Daum.

The changes will also expand who can censor online comments. CAC now asks that platforms share the power of censoring comments with content creators—in Chinese internet lingo, “public account operators.” Currently, government-affiliated accounts are already empowered to do this on sites like Weibo. If this revision becomes law, creators will also become part of the censorship machine, responsible for identifying “illegal or negative” content and reporting it. 

“Although China’s internet is one of the most censored in the world, there is still some space for discussing sensitive topics. People can play a clever cat-and-mouse game with censors and make creative adjustments once posts are censored,” says William Nee, research and advocacy coordinator at Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

“However, the new system could make that next to impossible and tighten the already limited space for freedom of expression on sensitive topics even further.” 

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Media Advisory: Ministers Stoodley and Davis to Attend Run for Women in Support of Stella's Circle – News Releases – Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

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On Sunday, June 26 the Honourable Sarah Stoodley, Minister of Digital Government and Service NL and the Honourable Bernard Davis, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, will attend the LOVE YOU’ by Shoppers Drug Mart Run for Women, in support of women’s mental health programs at Stella’s Circle.

The event is set to begin at 8:45 a.m. at Quidi Vidi Lake, 115 The Boulevard, St. John’s.

The Run for Women is held in 18 cities throughout Canada and focuses on Women’s Mental Health. Funds raised go to this year’s charity partner, Stella’s Circle, to specifically support programming at Naomi House and the Just Us Women’s Centre. The event also promotes physical movement as a means to creating better positive mental health outcomes.

-30-

Media contacts
Krista Dalton
Digital Government and Service NL
709-729-4748, 685-6492
kristadalton@gov.nl.ca

Lynn Robinson
Environment and Climate Change
709-729-5449, 691-9466
lynnrobinson@gov.nl.ca

2022 06 24
1:40 pm

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Newly appointed Toronto councillor resigns after controversial social media posts resurfaced – CTV News Toronto

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A newly installed Toronto councillor has resigned after her old social media posts, which appear to show homophobic content, were unearthed hours following her appointment.

Rosemarie Bryan was appointed by city council as the new councillor for Ward 1 – Etobicoke North during a special meeting on Friday, filling the vacancy left by Michael Ford, who ran in June’s provincial election and won.

After she was appointed, however, Bryan’s alleged past social media activities, which appears to show her sharing anti-LGBTQ content, were brought to light.

Friday was the start of the Pride Toronto’s Festival Weekend, which features the return of the Pride Parade to downtown streets on Sunday following a two-year hiatus.

Several councillors posted to social media that had they known about Bryan’s posts, they would not have voted for her to fill the seat.

“A majority of councillors would have never this (way) had this information been brought forward. We relied too heavily on the recommendation being made by former councillor,” Coun. Mike Layton tweeted.

“We need to reopen this debate.”

Of the 23 councillors who cast their ballots, 21 voted for Bryan, including Mayor John Tory.

Coun. Josh Matlow, one of the two councillors who did not vote for Bryan, called for her resignation, tweeting that he does not believe “anyone who supports hate and bigotry should be a Toronto city councillor, or hold any public office for that matter. This is disgraceful.”

On Friday night, Bryan released a statement announcing that she is resigning, saying it’s the best way to continue serving those who love and support her in Etobicoke North.

Bryan said she is devastated that her past online posts are being “thrown against my decades of commitment to the community.”

“I recognize councillors were not aware of those posts before today’s discussion and now that they are, I recognize many would not have cast their vote for me. I don’t want to hurt all those who supported me and I remain committed to helping my community in any and every way I can,” she said.

In a statement, Tory said while Bryan made a “strong case” to council for her appointment, her past social media posts are “not acceptable.”

“I totally disagree with any homophobic or transphobic views. I absolutely support our 2SLGBTQ+ residents. City Councillors are expected to set an example when it comes to consistency with our shared values,” Tory said.

“I would not have voted for this appointment had I been aware of these posts and I know that is the sentiment of the vast majority of council who also voted today.”

He said it was appropriate for Bryan to resign.

“The upset this has caused everyone involved is extremely unfortunate. This is especially unfortunate on the very weekend when we are celebrating the progress we have made together,” Tory said, adding that he has asked staff to review the overall appointment process.

[embedded content]

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S.Korean leader's informal media events are a break with tradition – SaltWire Halifax powered by The Chronicle Herald

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By Soo-hyang Choi

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean leader Yoon Suk-yeol has departed from years of tradition by holding informal daily media events to field questions on topics ranging from inflation and ties with neighbouring North Korea to the first lady and even boyband BTS.

Such wide-ranging access to the president was previously unheard of. It stems from Yoon’s decision to move his office out of the official Blue House, whose previous occupants largely steered clear of such interactions over more than seven decades.

“It’s apparently helping Yoon dispel worries about his lack of political experience and giving him a sense of where public opinion is at,” said Eom Kyeong-young, a political commentator based in the capital, Seoul.

Yoon, a former prosecutor-general, entered politics just a year ago, before winning the presidency in March by a margin of just 0.7%, the narrowest in South Korea’s history.

Upon his inauguration in May, Yoon moved the presidential office to the compound of South Korea’s defence ministry, describing the official residence as the symbol of an “imperial presidency”, and vowing not to “hide behind” his aides.

His liberal predecessor, Moon Jae-in, had rarely held news conferences, and almost always filtered his communication with the media, and the public, through layers of secretaries.

Analysts see Yoon’s daily freewheeling sessions as part of a broader communications strategy that lets him drive policy initiatives and present himself as a confident, approachable leader.

The campaign has also allayed public suspicions about the newcomer to politics, they say.

Polls show the new strategy helping to win support and much-needed political capital for Yoon in his effort to hasten recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, in a parliament dominated by the opposition Democratic Party.

Although Yoon’s approval rating dipped to 47.6% in a recent survey, slightly lower than the disapproval figure of 47.9%, another June poll showed communication was the reason most frequently cited by those who favoured him.

“The sweeping victory of Yoon’s conservative party in June local elections shows the public is not so much against the new administration,” said Eom.

Incumbents from Yoon’s People Power Party (PPP) defeated challengers for the posts of mayor in the two biggest cities of Seoul and the port city of Busan in that contest, while its candidates won five of seven parliamentary seats.

Eom attributed Yoon’s low approval rating from the beginning of his term to inflation risks that threaten to undermine an economic recovery and his lack of a support base as a new politician.

But some critics say Yoon’s sessions raise the chances that he could make mistakes.

“He could make one mistake a day,” Yun Kun-young of the opposition party wrote on Facebook last week, saying the new practice could be “the biggest risk factor” for the government.

The presidential office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Yoon has already faced criticism for controversial remarks made during the morning briefings, such as one in defence of his nominee for education minister, who has a record of driving under the influence of alcohol years ago.

But the daily meetings and public reaction would ultimately help the government to shape policy better, said Shin Yul, a professor of political science at Myongji University in Seoul.

“It might be burdensome for his aides for now, but will be an advantage in the long term,” Shin said. “A slip of the tongue cannot be a bigger problem than a policy failure.”

(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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