A Chinese government ministry ordered Chinese media companies to toe the government line this week in their reporting on Google's decision to move its search operations to Hong Kong.
The list of instructions, obtained by China Digital Times and published by The Washington Post, underscores the degree to which the Chinese government attempts to control the spread of information more than anything Google has ever said about search censorship. The list contains specific details on which types of stories can be published and asks media outlets in China to purge reader discussions from their pages that attack the government's view.
According to China Digital Times, China's State Information Council runs an Internet Affairs Bureau that Chinese journalists have dubbed the Ministry of Truth after the governing power in George Orwell's novel "1984." After Google announced its decision regarding its presence in China on Monday, the Internet Affairs Bureau distributed the list to Chinese media outlets, part of regular directives it issues about potentially sensitive topics.
"Please pay strict attention to the following content requirements during this period," the list instructed, according to a translation provided by China Digital Times, a project of the Berkeley China Internet Project. A sample of those requirements follows:
"Only use Central Government main media (Web site) content; do not use content from other sources."
"Do not produce relevant topic pages; do not set discussion sessions; do not conduct related investigative reporting."
"Online programs with experts and scholars on this matter must apply for permission ahead of time. This type of self-initiated program production is strictly forbidden."
"All Web sites please clean up text, images, and sound and videos which support Google, dedicate flowers to Google, ask Google to stay, cheer for Google and others have a different tune from government policy."
"Chief managers in different regions please assign specific manpower to monitor Google-related information; if there is information about mass incidents, please report it in a timely manner."