China Passes A Controversial Cyber Security Law

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By Winston C.

China has recently passed a new cyber security bill that will restrict online freedom speech which intensifies their internet censorship. The Communist Party has a complex internet censorship system, The Great Firewall, which blocks many sites and internet content. The law prevents users from publishing or creating information that includes anything that could damage China’s reputation such as “national honor,” “disturbing economic or social order,” or “is aimed at overthrowing the socialist system,” as well as criticizing their reputation with human rights.

The new law, which was approved by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee,  makes companies have to verify any user’s identity, in the end going online anonymously is illegal. This new law also has new requirements and revisions to the country’s networks and private user information. The early drafts of the legislation created massive controversy among business and rights groups.

Companies overseas and rights groups have expressed many concerns over the new law as it has very vague wording in its contents. This means more work would need to have to be done to cooperate with the authorities to “protect national security.” The new law is dangerous to internet companies since they are “required to censor and provide personal data to authorities at a whim,” said Patrick Poon, China researcher at overseas-based rights group Amnesty International. In the end, the final draft of the law still has broadly-worded language which makes interpretation very hard for companies and others.

The country has tightened up their censorship regulations since 2013, starting large-range crackdowns which targeted activists. Many Chinese bloggers and journalists were detained to assert dominance over social media. With regulations, Chinese internet users would face three years in prison for writing or posting messages more than 500 times that are deemed offensive to the state. Users who have viewed offending posts more than 5,000 times can also be jailed. Many comments that have been posted on social media have been used in prosecution of activists. Since online speech and privacy is Beijing’s main focus, “then citizens and online users as well as international corporations are at risk,” said Sophie Richardson, Director of Human Rights Watch in China. “This law means there are no protections for users against serious charges.”

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