The Bureau of International Cooperation at the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has told the global internet giants they won’t be changing regulations, so obey them or go somewhere else.
Numerous internet brands, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, have been blocked in China in the last couple of years owing to censorship and privacy rules, and this doesn’t look like it’s going to change. There has been pressure on governments such as China to open up rules and create a more Westernised internet, but the country is refusing to bow to pressure. These are our rules, get used to them or get lost, seems to be the message.
According to Reuters, at the Internet Governance Forum at the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva, the CAC has been quite frank with the internet giants.
“The condition is that they have to abide by Chinese law and regulations,” said said Qi Xiaoxia, Director General of the CAC. “That is the bottom line. And also that they would not do any harm to Chinese national security and national consumers’ interests.”
China has been viewed by many technology and telco giants as the promised land. 751 million internet users and underdeveloped infrastructure to reach the other 600-odd million is an opportunity many would love to tackle, but rules concerning local partnerships and censorship have faltered many campaigns. The internet giants are the ones who have missed out the most.
Google is blocked in China, after moving operations from Mainland China in 2010 over censorship differences. China turned out the lights on Facebook in 2009. Twitter is banned, as is Snapchat. And in truth, the Chinese are probably not missing out that much.
Baidu is a pretty effective alternative to Google, while WeChat and RenRen have replaced the gap left by Facebook, and Weibu for Twitter. Youku Tudou contains less self-produced content than YouTube, but is still very popular. Finally, Douban is a mash-up of Imdb, Spotify, SoundCloud, and MySpace. All of the brands which have filled the void are pretty good as well.
Some of the more recent changes occurred in June, with the introduction of new regulations which would force any foreign firms to store data locally and submit to data surveillance measures. New cyber security laws such as these would perhaps irritate the internet giants as these are people who are used to dictating the rules, not being dictated to.
The fortunes are certainly there in China, but the internet giants will have to accept their place in the pecking order; they need China more than China needs them.