A year ago, environmental groups in China launched an ambitious campaign to persuade the government to adopt tougher regulations to combat the growing popularity of the social media platforms.
They have since achieved more than they bargained for.
In the wake of the country’s worst air pollution disaster in decades, Chinese leaders have announced a sweeping plan to regulate social media, including allowing online platforms to control content.
The move is intended to protect the countrys public health, fight pollution and promote environmental protection.
But environmentalists are not convinced that this plan is the most efficient way to protect public health.
“The government has no intention of actually regulating social media in any meaningful way,” said Tanya Wang, a senior fellow at Greenpeace Canada.
A growing number of groups, including the United Nations, the World Wildlife Fund, and Greenpeace, have urged China to adopt a more stringent approach.
In December, China introduced its first draft of its online content regulation in more than a decade, following pressure from the United States and the European Union.
Chinese media, many of which are owned by state-owned companies, have consistently been critical of the plan, with one Chinese news outlet reporting that the draft regulations “would be more akin to a totalitarian state.”
“China is a totalitarian regime,” Wang said.
“This is a threat to our freedoms.
The Chinese government has made it clear it doesn’t care about free speech.
We want to make sure the Chinese public knows that.”
In China, the biggest social media companies, such as WeChat and Weibo, have been instrumental in pushing for the regulations.
They were the first to make the social networking site a part of China’s official government service in 2015.
WeChat was among the first companies to adopt the countrywide ban on content deemed offensive to national security and religious beliefs.
Weibo’s social media accounts have become notorious for the posts it deletes after users complain.
WeChat removed posts that praised the military, mocked religious symbols and mocked human rights abuses.
The company has been fined hundreds of millions of dollars for censoring posts that were not deemed offensive, according to a lawsuit filed last year in the United Kingdom.
It also censored posts critical of China in 2014.
We were also forced to suspend our service due to a massive spam campaign.
Some critics have also criticized WeChat’s business model.
We have to pay royalties on content that users upload to the site, and WeChat is a cash cow for the company, Wang said, adding that the company has “no intention of slowing down.”
China is the world’s second-largest economy, and it has a reputation for censorship.
China’s government, which is the main censor in the country, has used its social media controls to restrict online freedom and media activity.
In 2014, for example, more than 1,000 websites and social media apps were banned in China over allegations of inciting racial hatred, according a New York Times report.
In February, the government imposed the country�s first-ever internet censorship in the city of Wuhan, shutting down social media and internet content that had been used by foreign media outlets and groups such as the American Friends of Hanoi.
China has also shut down news websites and media sites.
Environmental groups and journalists are calling on the government in China to rethink its approach to the internet, saying it has been used to suppress freedom of expression.
“The Chinese government needs to stop allowing the internet to be used as a weapon to suppress speech and press freedom,” said Wang.
“We need to demand that China stop the censorship and allow the Chinese people to use the internet as an alternative to censorship.”
Read more about China and climate change:The China Climate Change Action Plan The Associated Press contributed to this report.