China rejects report that places it bottom for freedom of information on the internet
China’s cyber authority has rejected a report from Freedom House which ranks the country last for press freedom.
Freedom House is an NGO that conducts research into democracy and political freedom. “For the third consecutive year, China was the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom, followed by Syria and Ethiopia,” it says in its new annual report.
But Ren Xianliang, vice minister of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), rejected the claims, saying that the internet must be “orderly” and the international community should join it in addressing fake news and other cyber issues.
He suggested that the rapid development of the country’s internet over two decades is proof of its success and that it advocates for the free flow of information.
“We should not just make the internet fully free, it also needs to be orderly... The United States and Europe also need to deal with these fake news and rumours,” Ren told journalists.
China enforces strict internet censorship rules, which have hardened this year with new restrictions on media outlets and surveillance measures for social media sites.
But China wasn’t the only offender clamping down on internet freedoms. Freedom House’s report claims that “governments around the world are dramatically increasing their efforts to manipulate information on social media, threatening the notion of the internet as a liberating technology.”
It also says the manipulation of social media has undermined elections in 18 countries over the past year.
“The use of paid commentators and political bots to spread government propaganda was pioneered by China and Russia but has now gone global,” said Michael J Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “The effects of these rapidly spreading techniques on democracy and civic activism are potentially devastating.”
This year China brought in new rules banning virtual private networks and other methods used to circumvent the country’s Great Firewall, which blocks foreign social media and news sites in the country.
The Cyberspace Administration also introduced laws making members of messaging app groups legally liable for content deemed offensive to socialist values.
It comes as China prepares to host the World Internet Conference, the country’s top public cyber policy forum, next month, where members of international governments and the UN will join local officials for a series of discussions on cyber governance.
Several foreign tech firms will also attend the event, including representatives from Facebook, which is blocked behind the Great Firewall but used regularly abroad by Chinese state media outlets.