China has contacted tech companies to increase censorship as the cat-and-mouse game with online users is becoming more arduous for the CCP.

Sources disclosed to the Wall Street Journal that the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) had told the companies to add more content moderators and clamp down on protest-related topics. Such topics include posts about protests at Chinese universities and the Xinjiang fire that recently sparked a social uproar.

The people said CAC is also looking to restrict virtual private networks, or VPNs, commonly used to bypass China’s Great Firewall. In addition, they were tasked with telling internet companies to delete sales postings, usage instructions, and searches related to the tool.

The orders came out on November 29, and among the contracted firms were Tencent and TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance.

On November 30, ExpressVPN announced that there had been a drop in connections to China because mainlanders commonly use their service to circumvent the country’s massive filtering system.

While some VPN providers are permitted to operate in China, the terms of their permits require them to filter out websites that authorities deem improper. Despite a ban in 1997, Chinese internet users can still find ways to use unofficial services to access overseas networks, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Journal reported that downloads of Netherland-based VPN provider Surfshark have increased during China’s protests. A spokeswoman for the firm said troubleshooting requests from the country have also soared simultaneously.

China’s censorship watchdog has been overpowered by creative users who have come up with numerous ways to keep topics going under the watchful eyes of constantly updated algorithms.

As the Associated Press reported, they were posting images of blank white papers, an icon of the recent protests, or using sarcastic terms and Chinese homonyms to keep mocking the communist party.
While the cyberspace war rages, a regulation seeking to penalize users simply for liking public posts is coming on December 15. The CAC vowed in a statement on November 16 to police accounts that like or comment on illegal and harmful content but did not further specify its criteria.

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