China is turning the keen gaze of its beady censorship eye to the world of online music as part of its latest crackdown on the Internet.
The national ministry of culture this week announced that, from January 1, 2016, all online music services must remove sensitive material from their song libraries, according to a report from Reuters.
These new policing will be carried out by music services themselves, with the threat of fines and other action for those who fail to cooperate. Apple, which launched its Apple Music service in China at the end of September, and local tech heavyweights Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, each of which operates a music streaming service, will be affected. Spotify, Rdio and Google Music are among the international services that have not yet launched in China, but they would also be subject to the directive should they land on Chinese soil.
The online music business in China has traditionally been challenging thanks to widespread piracy. Both Google and Yahoo have shuttered music services in recent years, but there’s new sense of optimism in the country thanks to rise of smartphones and the growth of a middle class that is prepared to spend money on services and technology, such as Apple’s hugely popular iPhones.
China has increased its control over the Internet and online communication in recent times under the tenure of President Xi Jinping. Crackdowns have included measures to force social networks to self-censor user content, the mandatory registration users of all web services, efforts to block VPN services, and even the placement of police inside top technology companies. China isn’t just increasing its defensive efforts though, it has also used an offensive tool — dubbed the Great Cannon — to shoot down Internet sites that challenge it, for example when GitHub housed anti-censorship information.
Music has already been a target of the government, albeit on a far smaller and more random scale. Back in August, more than 100 rap songs were removed from online music services at the request of the government which deemed them to “promote obscenity, violence, crime, or threaten public morality.”