back to article Always read the comments: Beijing requires oversight of all reader-generated chat

The Cyberspace Administration of China has announced a policy requiring all comments made to websites to be approved before publication. Outlined in a document published last Friday and titled "Provisions on the Administration of Internet Thread Commenting Services", the policy is aimed at making China's internet safer, and …

  1. DS999 Silver badge

    That would be a huge change

    Moderated forums that require approval of all posts are terrible for free flowing conversation. You post something and it may take hours for it to be approved, and it along with a bunch of others hits the site in a batch. The turnaround time from when you post to seeing what others have posted and you can respond would be hours unless a site was big enough to have full time moderation staff - and even then are probably not going to be 24x7 except for the massive ones like Weibo.

    I've seen sites that went to moderated content have their forums completely die. It killed the immediacy and back and forth that made it fun, it was easier for everyone to just move on elsewhere.

    1. ShadowSystems

      Re: That would be a huge change

      I agree, it would kill the free flow of conversations in a natural, face-to-face style where one person's comments tend to spark creative tangents that often lead to new & interesting concepts, products, or services. Like two people talking about types of butter & winding up bringing to market a new & innovative way to produce inexpensive & tastier/healthier grapes. What do grapes have to do with butter? Nothing, but their train of thought derailed so hard that they came up with something along those lines.

      You can't get that same creative-idea-generating, concepts molding like clay, bouncing ideas off each other until you wind up brainstorming The Next Big Thing, if every single post has to be cleared, vetted, & posted through an editorial team. Especially if that team is also the government censors doing their best to stomp a jackbooted foot down on anything that *might* be subversive.

      "We're sorry, that topic is Not Allowed. You will be reported for being a subversive."

      WTF? I was talking about making buttered popcorn & sharing it with my girlfriend at the movies. How is that subversive?

      "We're not allowed to tell you that. Asking about it is subversion. You will be reported."

      At which point "The Last Generation" folks will have the last laugh. You won't HAVE anyone to bully about if your population falls so low as to be unable to support itself, much less all those elderly Powers That Be that need medical help for their infirmaties. Need someone to change your folley bag? Too bad, there's nobody left willing to help you; they're too busy starving to death in a nation that can't feed itself because all the "youngsters" are over 50 & in need of medical help themselves.

      TL;DR: China: The Totalitarian Guide to shooting yourself in the foot.

      1. Denarius

        Re: That would be a huge change

        Re Last Generation. Your assessment is correct AFAIK. By 2100 the population is likely to drop about 50% Japan is in same hole. It is one reason the PRC leadership is likely to remain bellicose because it is the only "nationally unifying" card left.

        My fear it will be seen as a good idea by the equally failing western elites and academics, but I repeat myself, so another Ministry of Truth effort is a year or two away. Probably administered by Zuck

      2. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: That would be a huge change

        "TL;DR: China: The Totalitarian Guide to shooting yourself in the foot."

        A nice summing up of the inevitable societal outcome. And of course the ultimate irony is that shooting yourself in the foot was originally an intentional act (to get out of the 1914-18 war trenches by disabling oneself). It might be inferred that such measures as the proposed 'moderation' exemplify a wider intent (even if not publicly admitted) to inhibit progress in favour of stability. If one examines the long history of China, this can be perceived even in pre-communist times.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: That would be a huge change

      I've seen sites that went to moderated content have their forums completely die

      I'm feeling the Chinese gov't doesn't think that's actually a bad thing.

    3. jmch Silver badge

      Re: That would be a huge change

      Not to mention the overhead.... Depends on how active a forum is, of course, but you probably need one admin per 100-1000 users... maybe even per less users if the forum is particularly active. And that has to be 24/365. For half a billion fairly active internet users!!!

      Even at a conservative estimate they need to find something like half a million content moderators, and THEN have to make sure that none of those half-million are themselves posting or OK-ing subversive posts etc etc

      1. WhereAmI?

        Re: That would be a huge change

        Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

        Xiping is going to be a very busy man.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: That would be a huge change

          Three reviewers per shift: one who can read, one who can write, and one to look after those dangerous intellectuals.

          1. Steve K

            Re: That would be a huge change

            Might need even more dangerous intellectuals than that as presumably they will have to review in > 1 language....

            1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

              Re: That would be a huge change

              I'm sure anything other than standard chinese is subversive-by-default.

      2. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: That would be a huge change

        "and THEN have to make sure that none of those half-million are themselves posting or OK-ing subversive posts etc etc"

        Or indeed make sure the moderators are not being subverted by the very content they are moderating. I suppose they could try to train a bot-moderator, except bots seem even easier to subvert than humans. Hell is programming a Chinese bot -- "Citizen! Your bot does not have approved socialist values. How do you explain this?"

    4. WhereAmI?

      Re: That would be a huge change

      I thought that was the idea.

    5. teknopaul

      Re: That would be a huge change

      This furum moderates before posting.

    6. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: That would be a huge change

      It's already happening on El Reg

      It appears as though if your post doesn't adhere to the San Francisco's current ideolology then you don't get to reply.

      I currently have several posts awaiting moderation and yet there is nothing contreversial within them. It's just that it appears as though I have been flagged... So the verification process has begun here too...

      So much for for El Reg being a place for actual conversation.

      1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

        Re: That would be a huge change

        I've also had posts moderated. Usually it was because I was being an asshole, and consideration of what I'd posted after the fact led me to understand why my posts were moderated. Maybe you should re-read your posts and consider whether you sound like an asshole.

        1. John 104

          Re: That would be a huge change

          As a long time Reg reader, going on two decades, this is nothing new. They've moderated for as long as I can remember.

          As to whether or not being an ass hole or whatever. On one hand, its their site, they can do whatever they want. On the other, free speech...Then again, Reg is a UK company, so, nothing new to see here.

          1. Khaptain Silver badge

            Re: That would be a huge change

            I've been on El Reg for nigh on 14 years and this is new to me..

            As far as being an asshole is concerned, I disagree, my opinion might not conform to current ideologies but that certainly does not make me an asshole.. Quite the contrary, my disagreement, or opposite point of view is what is required in order for any "discussion" to take place..

            If someone does not agree they are welcome to present their side, the ad homonyms are not necessary. I might not be correct 100% of the time but why should that prevent me putting forward my point of view.. It is quite a normal process during ones education throughout life....

            1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge


              I'm personally loving the "my comments are being moderated!" and the whiff of allegations of censorship ....... in comments that are public for everyone to see. I explained in the linked-to thread why comments were being held on that story.

              We pretty much only reject comments that are legally problematic to us (as someone said, we are UK based and that nation's rules on UGC are not the same as the US's), flat out misinformation (eg, claims that COVID-19 vaccines have 5G chips in them), or things that would derail a conversation (eg, complaining about moderation when there are forums for that).

              The vast majority of comments go through automatically, and some are manually moderated for really boring reasons. If you find your comments being moderated then it's going to be because of some practical reason above and not because someone here disagrees with you.

              If someone's comment is approved or rejected when the opposite should have happened, it's always cockup over conspiracy - drop us a note to appeal it if you're so inclined.


              1. Khaptain Silver badge

                Re: Administrivia


                Thanks again for replying but in 14 years I have never seen so many comments being moderated. On the extremely rare occasion in the the past I may have waited, at most , 30 minutes. In the last 2 months or so , it has now become the majority of my posts and some of them take 2 days before being published.

                What is the explanation for the increase in both the quantity of posts being put under verification and the increase in waiting times.

                After many years it is very obvious to me that something has changed in the getting process.

                1. Excellentsword (Written by Reg staff)

                  Re: Re: Administrivia

                  You're posting at the weekend or we have other work to do?

                  1. Clunking Fist

                    Re: Administrivia

                    Or you said something about Biden.

                2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

                  "I have never seen so many comments being moderated"

                  I don't have moderation stats easily to hand but I don't believe there's been a significant uptick in moderation.


    7. nijam Silver badge

      Re: That would be a huge change

      > ...sites that went to moderated content have their forums completely die.

      That's the point, I think.

    8. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

      Re: That would be a huge change

      You assume that your goals are the same as Chinese leadership goals. They do not want a fre exchange of ideas, they want the free exchange of APPROVED ideas. Let people start thinking for themselves and they might just decide they want a different form of government with different people at the top.

  2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Not a good future

    I've experienced heavily moderated forums run by cellphone and appliance makers. Eventually you only see the opinions of moderators who've become so drunk on their power that they become trolls. Samsung is the worst - every approved answer is pure misinformation and anyone supplying actual evidence has their account locked. I've banished Samsung products from my life just as they've banished me from their web site.

    What's China's desired end result? I don't see this working. It's going to product a lot of crazies for sure.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not a good future

      Had a similar experience with Apple also when asking about an intermittent display fault. No Apple stores within hundreds of miles of where I live, phone support was hopeless and an attempt with an authorized agent (also in another town) resulted in no fix but also no usable laptop for two weeks. Post on Apple forums with questions and a bit of a frustrated (but not rude) comment about the difficult accessing service. Result: one response miles off topic form a forum regular before the thread got removed by a moderator. Really leaves one high and dry.

      Footnote: I did eventually get Apple to properly fix the issue at no cost to myself, but after endless hours of phone calls and a total period of a month without the laptop.

    2. hoola Silver badge

      Re: Not a good future

      Whilst I completely agree the alternatives that we have with Facebook, Twitter etc are at the opposite end of the scale were it can be very difficult to get utterly inappropriate content removed.

      Even looking at the BBC HYS forums (an organisation one would assume errs on the side of caution) there is no consistency in the moderation and relies on the readers to report the offending posts.

      There is a fine line between controlling the content that is available and censorship. What one person sees as offensive, misleading or dangerous is believed to be perfectly acceptable to others. That when something is clearly not acceptable it then gets attention far beyond what it merits makes the situation worse.

      1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

        Re: Not a good future

        I dunno, if it's information with a right wing slant I underatand Faecesbook is pretty quick to remove it. But if it'a a leftist post, it'll be there forever even if it's a bald-faced lie proven repeatedly to be a lie, while other posts showing it to be a lie are removed.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Not a good future

          Actual studies have shown if anything it is the other way around. Right wingers are just bigger snowflakes whose entire identity is based around everyone in the world being against them, so they are much more vocal about telling the world when it happens. The rest of us just go on with our day and don't make a big deal about it.

  3. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    Too risky

    Who would dare run a forum this way? If you approve some comment that later gets reported, there will be two heads on the block.

    1. Denarius

      Re: Too risky

      Indeed. People might have to start meeting in coffee houses in dingy side streets, plotting to put up posters. Look how that turned out in Europe

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: Too risky

        "People might have to start meeting in coffee houses in dingy side streets"

        Might even work. After all it was where (in England) a lot of the science we now take for granted - and indeed the insurance industry - were conceived.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Too risky

          Indeed, Lloyds and Rawthmell's spring to mind. I carried on the tradition >250 years later by holding student tutorials in local coffee houses - I got a much better turnout than booking rooms in the college (and they ended up with much better exam results).

          The enlightenment managed with that and paper letters (and a postal service much slower than we have today). A lesson a lot of people need to learn is the danger of shooting from the lip (or keyboard). If I have something controversial to say, or am annoyed, I usually leave the post in my draft folder overnight - when I read it before posting in the morning I realise it was a load of twaddle and usually delete it. If a response is needed, a new one is far more productive.

          Of course, there are times when speed of response is needed, but there are often better media than an open/public forum.

          Of course, this post is fairly immediate (just 10 minutes to edit before posting) - I might read it tomorrow and withdraw it :)

          1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

            Re: Too risky

            "...and a postal service much slower than we have today..."

            IIRC, in London, at peak, there were about six postal deliveries a day. (I have a link somewhere, I can't be arsed to dig it out.) If Victorian letters sometimes read like early emails it's because they could post a letter and get a response back in hours.

          2. Someone Else Silver badge

            Re: Too risky

            [...] (and a postal service much slower than we have today).

            I assume you are a right ponder. Were you to be a left ponder, you'd never associate the post-tRump/Louis DeJoy Post office with quick (or even moderate) service.

            1. Someone Else Silver badge

              Re: Too risky

              (Ooooh, look what I just did...made a posting that is not in line with Correct Government-approved Rightthink. I suppose I have at best a little more than two years before that won't be permitted here, either.) <sigh />

              1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

                Re: Too risky

                No, you just made a post that ignored the word Victorian and thereby completely missed the point of the post you were "replying" to.

              2. Clunking Fist

                Re: Too risky

                Eh? Blaming OrangeManBad for something IS correct rightthink. As is blaming Putin for inflation and NOT the various central bankers of the world and their loose monetary polices and lockdowns.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too risky

      There's a news site I read articles a couple times weekly. It always catches me out when I scroll down and see them cheerfully announce "We've closed down our comments section as there are better ways to connect." Ah, maybe NPR?

      When that becomes true of every site, it's only better for the CCP.

      1. ChoHag Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Too risky

        > When that becomes true of every site, it's only better for the CCP.

        The conversation won't stop, it'll move somewhere that TPTB can't see it. Somewhere it can, lacking oversight, become effective.

        Can we have a popcorn icon? There's too much going on to drink to it all.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "read everything and report dissent"

    Xi Pooh still doesn't get it : silencing dissent does not erase it, it just pushes it underground where you cannot see it anymore.

    Xi will get his clear, shining landscape of beautiful, happy citizens, but underneath there will be a festering pile of hatred and malcontent which, when it explodes (and it will), will be swift and devastating.

    I can see that and I'm not even a historian, much less a psychologist.

  5. bpfh

    Outsourcing opportunity?

    So when big social media companies complain that they cannot moderate content.... now they can?

    1. MrDamage Silver badge

      Re: Outsourcing opportunity?

      They always have been able to, it's just not economically viable. The costs involved in moderating in enough of a real time environment in order to continue to facilitate the exchange of ideas are literally prohibitive. You would have to charge for site usage, and nobody is going to pay a cent to use something like Tw@tter.

  6. localzuk Silver badge


    Not sure the Chinese government have a good grasp on what socialism is? Socialism is itself not authoritarian and dictatorial. Having criticism of the government isn't not in itself anti-socialist.

    But then, China isn't particularly bothered with actually following socialist values are they? They appear to be far closer to the Animal Farm version of communism - everyone is equal but some are more equal than others.

    1. Tubz Silver badge

      Re: Socialism?

      China isn't a communist state. it's capitalism at it's finest with an upper echelon of elite ruling, a controlled number of academics and skilled people enjoying privileges but not enough to become a threat to the elite, while the majority are kept in subordination as a low skill disposable workforce.

      1. EvilDrSmith Silver badge

        Re: Socialism?

        Nope, it's nothing to do with capitalism, and even less to do with the free market (which is often linked with capitalism). After all, a (truly) free market would mean a market that doesn't do as it's told by the Communist Party.

        China is a 'post-communist' state, whereby the original requirement for state direction of the economy (nominally for the benefit of all, if you want to be generous in assigning motivation) has become state control of the economy for the benefit of those in charge.

        It might be termed crony-capitalism (which is a misnomer, since crony-capitalism isn't capitalism + free market).

        Given the similarities to how the 1930's Italian and German economies were run, Fascism might also seem a reasonably applicable descriptor.

        The Russian economy / state seems to operate on a similar basis.

        1. MrDamage Silver badge

          Re: Socialism?

          The term you want, is Oligarchy. You know, the term they're trying very, very hard not to apply to the USA, despite all appearances otherwise.

    2. Vandervecken

      Re: Socialism?

      Socialism is rife with oppression. Most Socialist states do not have true freedom of speech. Look at most of Europe. If you say anything they don't like you face fines or even jail time. In Sweden restently someone posted a comment that a Trans Woman was not a true woman and was arrested and is now facing years in jail. For speech.

      1. Clunking Fist

        Re: Socialism?

        Crikey, members of the governing bodies of the various womens' sports groups had better steer clear of Sweden.

    3. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Socialism?

      That's what all human socialism is. Socialism, or communism, can only be correctly performed by ants or soe other form of hive mind. When your community is made up of individuals, it breaks down because individuals have their own ideas and preferences, and they do not always match others. When not all agree on all things, true communism/socialism break down because what is good for the group is no longer what is good for the entire group. You must either admit it doesn't work and try something else, or squash the dissent. Inevitably, these forms of goverbment squash dissent because it's cushy at the top and those in charge want to keep their cushy positions. The problem with squashing dissent is eventually there's only one person left.

  7. JJamesR

    But _did_ Li know?

    >Li surely knew he was tempting fate with even an oblique reference to the fact that China's government used tanks and troops to suppress and kill protestors on that day.

    But did he? The irony is the Chinese government has been so throughly successful in wiping this event from common knowledge that many people have no clue it ever occurred. Li must be well versed in navigating government censorship laws to have become so successful, so it seems unbelievable he'd make such a mistake. It seems more likely he simply didn't know, but now he surely does. Streisand effect ftw.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can see Nadine Dorries nicking this idea

    when someone has explained it to her.

  9. MajDom

    Just another step in the same direction.

    Soon you'll be rewarded when equipping yourself and your children with listening and seeing wearables. Your children will have access to better schools, you'll have a little pension.

    Until the implants are ready for deployment.

    All in the interest of "the people," of course, you subversive piece of undesirable.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is what US Progressives want

    This is what cancel culture in the US is aimed at. Supression of views not in line with current Socialist Doctrine. No freedom of speech, no freedom of assembly, no right to self defense. If you say something the thought police does not like, you will be punished.

    1. Blank Reg

      Re: This is what US Progressives want

      maybe if those on the right could try not spreading blatant lies, fomenting hate and fear mongering then they would find others more accepting of their views.

      1. Someone Else Silver badge

        Re: This is what US Progressives want

        That's difficult. I mean, how many reasonable Righties are there with whom you can have an intelligent conversation?

        (Ref. Tejas GOP convention)

        Note: There are some -- I happen to know a couple. But they are clearly in danger of becoming extinct.

        1. Blank Reg

          Re: This is what US Progressives want

          The Texas GOP might as well change their name to the Texas Taliban as that is what they have become.

    2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

      Re: This is what US Progressives want

      It's funny when conservatives accuse progressives of "cancel culture" because doctrinaire conservatives have a long history of attempted cancellations under their belts. See, for example:

      Disney boycotts

      Book burnings

      Lynchings of blacks, gays, trade unionists, etc.

      The Red Scare/HUAC

      Censorship of COVID spread statistics

      Etc. Etc. Etc.

      Remove the beam from your own eye before commenting on the mote in another's, if you please.

      1. M.V. Lipvig Silver badge

        Re: This is what US Progressives want

        Disney boycotts, ie choosing to not spend moeny on Disney stuff, is how the right would do it. Burning Disney to the ground and attacking the guy in the Mickey Mouse costume with a ball bat is how the left would do it.

        Book burnings - more of a religious thing than a right wing thing. I'm a right winger and have never burned a book for its content, nor have I ever advocated doing so. I in fact own quite a few of those books, and records for that matter.

        Lynchings were more of a left wing thing as the KKK started life as the Democratic Party enforcement arm. They have their own reasons for supporting right wing politicians, but I neither know nor care what those reasons are. Were I running for office I would make an announcement that I don't welcome their votes or donations, and I'd rather lose the election than win with their support. Course, I'm not a politician. Lefist politicians would have no problem taking Klan money as long as it didn't come out. Gays would again be the religious fanatics. True, they tend to be right wingers, but their motivation comes from religion, not their politics. The same people did the same things when they were Democrats, and the only reason the religious switched parties was the Democratic party declared war on Christianity.

        Not sure what HUAC is, but the Red Scare was right for its time. Was it correct? Probably not, but arnchair quarterbacking is easy. I'm sure people were thinking differently on the front side of that mess.

        Censorship of covid? That isn't a left vs right thing. Once again I'm as right wing American as we come, and as soon as I was eligible to be vaccinated both the wife and I had our shots, then later our boosters. Some of my leftist relatives tried to talk us out of it, but they aren't talking to anyone anymore.

        You should really try to get a more balanced view of the world by looking for more balanced news sources.

        1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

          Re: This is what US Progressives want

          Your knowledge of history is woeful.

          Conservatives love to ignore the fact that Republicans and Democrats have essentially flipped ideologies. There was a time when Republicans were more progressive and Democrats more conservative, but in the early part of the 20th century, they gradually reversed. So yes, the KKK membership were probably originally Democrats, but that is no longer the case. Regardless of party affiliation, the KKK have always been conservative.

          HUAC: The House Un-American Activities Committee, headed by a Congressman you may have heard of, one Joseph McCarthy. The Red Scare destroyed a lot of lives, and it was driven by conservative reactionaries.

          In the present day, it's Republican governors and state houses (most notably Florida) which have tried to clamp down on the publication of information about COVID statistics and fought against mask and vaccine mandates. I'm willing to believe that you personally have some anti-vax left-wing relatives, but as a political movement, it's the Republicans who have led the charge towards spreading disease.

          "the Democratic party declared war on Christianity."

          What. The. Actual. Fuck.

          "You should really try to get a more balanced view of the world by looking for more balanced news sources."

          Fair and Balanced (TM) perhaps? Perhaps you should crack open a history book.

          1. Ace2 Silver badge

            Re: This is what US Progressives want

            Sorry @Throatwarbler, I think you’re in the “arguing with a dining room table” stage with this one.

  11. pomegranate

    Extremism in the defense of moderation..

    .. sort of depends on whether the moderator is the speaker himself, the publication, or the ruler.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like