Adds details, quotes on new MCN regulations

BEIJING, March 17 (Reuters)China will “rectify” companies that manage social media influencers as part of a 10-point “clean cyberspace” plan announced by the industry regulator on Thursday.

According to Sheng Ronghua, deputy director of the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), the campaign’s focus will include rectifying multi-channel network (MCN) agencies, short video and live streaming, as well as cracking down on Internet rumors.

The addition of MCN agencies to the cleanup campaign highlights CAC’s growing concern about the companies behind much of the viral content seen on Chinese social media.

In 2020, research consultancy iiMedia Research said that in China there were more than 28,000 MCN agencies, which tend to run multiple online influencers.

These influencers and their businesses have come under intense scrutiny in recent months over issues such as tax evasion.

Internet celebrity Viya, whose real name is Huang Wei, was fined 1.34 billion yuan ($211.1 million) last December for concealing personal income and other offenses in 2019 and 2020.

MCN companies are behind 40% of all accounts with more than 10 million followers on major social media platforms in China, according to Zhang Yongjun, a CAC official, who said future regulatory measures would target MCN companies whose influencers produce content deemed harmful to society.

“Online chaos is certainly related to website platform management, but there is also a high degree of correlation with MCN agencies.

“They are even causing some chaos,” Zhang said, who went on to add that some agencies incite confrontation between social media users, produce soft pornographic material, promote entertainment and promoted “bad values” in a wide range of fields. areas, among other issues.

Zhang then listed new measures that would target these companies, including tougher penalties, banning them from producing influential children and mass publishing homogeneous content online. The regulator also required influencers’ MCN agencies to be clearly displayed on their accounts and said it would set up a specialized reporting channel for social media users to “supervise” these companies.

“Our regulation of MCN agencies does not mean that we want to ‘kill them with a stick,’ but we hope they will be managed legally and standardized,” said Zhang, who added that the CAC would soon issue detailed rules to govern content production. .

As a result of 15 “special operations” launched by the ACC last year to create a cyberspace reflecting China’s socialist values, 1.34 billion accounts, 22 million online records, as well as more than 7 200 live streamers and websites, were taken down. , the regulator said.

In 2021, CAC also performed audits on the algorithms of more than 300 internet companies, news media, e-commerce platforms and video platforms, describing it as a learning experience that laid the “groundwork” for further measurement. regulations this year.

(Reporting by Eduardo Baptista; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Jason Neely)

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