In fresh crackdown, China wants online news sites to have approved staff

China strengthens Great Firewall with new online regulations

The world's second-largest economy is tightening its grip on online media, with new government regulations that aim to curb information published and distributed on the internet.

The rules, issued by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), become effective June 1 and apply to websites, blogs, livestreaming video, mobile messaging and social platforms. The government also specifically singled out topics including politics, economy, military, foreign affairs and "other areas of public interest."

All services must have a Chinese citizen as the top editor, and all editorial staff must be officially credentialed and approved by regulators. While this has been a longstanding requirement of traditional news media operating in the mainland, online channels have fallen into a gray area.

The new curbs are meant to "strengthen management of information on the internet, promote the healthy and orderly development of internet news, in accordance to law," the CAC said in a statement published online.

This is the latest move by Beijing to restrict what information mainland citizens can access online.

A youth wearing a shirt that reads 'we have nothing in common' walks past a news stand advertising local Chinese magazine Global People, showing cover portraits of Sun Yat-sen (centre L), founding father of the Republic of China, and US president-elect Donald Trump (centre R
Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images

President Xi Jinping has instituted a widespread crackdown on media and information since taking up his post in November 2012, and has made it clear in past remarks that news outlets should serve to spread the Communist Party's interests. The CAC was also founded under his leadership in 2014.

China's online censors – dubbed the Great Firewall – already heavily restrict news and information. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are blocked, as are some foreign news reports.

The country currently ranks 176th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index, published by the group Reporters Without Borders, ahead of only a handful of countries, including Syria and North Korea.