Contemporary

Regulation of Digital Media Platforms: The case of China

WeChat

In this policy brief, Dr Jufang Wang reviews China's regulation of digital media platforms against the backdrop of the party-state's concerns that the platforms' increasing power as gatekeepers of online news and information may undermine its information control.

Dr Wang examines the adjustment of China’s online content regulatory framework from targeting individual speakers and publishers to targeting digital platforms, which are required to fulfil a series of content governance obligations, including the real-name registration and verification policy, conducting real-time content monitoring, and establishing a user blacklisting mechanism.

Her analysis covers the rationale behind the severe punishments handed down to private platforms for hosting problematic content deemed to be politically sensitive, vulgar, or disinformation, as well as the efforts of the CCP to ensure greater control of the editorial decision-making of these digital media companies at the boardroom level.

She considers whether the so-called ‘special management share’ initiative may be applied to larger platforms such as WeChat and Weibo, and discusses the implications for their global reputation and possible conflicts arising from their obligations under international jurisdictions as publicly listed companies in overseas stock markets.

Dr Jufang Wang is deputy director of the Platforms, Governance, and Global Society (PGG) programme in the Law, Justice and Society Research Cluster at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. Previously, Jufang was Vice Director of News at CRI Online (part of China Media Group, China’s equivalent of the BBC), and has been an academic visitor at the BBC (2011) and at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford (2014).