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Digital Business Lawyer

China cracks down on live streaming content websites

On 22 June 2017, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (‘SAPPRFT’) ordered the blocking of all live video and audio streaming content on three of China’s largest online media platforms: Sina Weibo, iFeng, and ACFUN. SAPPRFT stated that the websites are “not in line with national audiovisual regulations and [are] propagating negative speech,” threatening to close the websites down if they did not comply with restrictions on who and what can be live streamed.

Since the block, Sina Weibo has introduced measures on its website in order to comply with the Chinese Government’s requests, including a requirement for non-Government users to apply for a licence before being permitted to live stream. John Chen, Associate at Taylor Wessing LLP, is not surprised by the Government’s actions, noting that the “grey area practice” of online broadcasters was always going to cause concerns.

Chen believes this development will impact on how digital businesses operate in China. “Those playing between the lines will need to adapt to avoid the escalating compliance risks, and those already holding a licence will also likely run an internal compliance audit,” said Chen. “Some players like Iqiyi and Sohu are taking a more proactive approach by formulating their own stricter content guidelines to mitigate potential risks.”

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