China purges Internet of ‘sexy’ women and ‘overeating’, RT’s Africa plan, and UN debates cyber crime

“No sexy women” – this is how censors in China celebrate the Lunar New Year. In yet another ambitious attempt to control the behavior of one billion internet users, the country’s leading cyberspace watchdog has launched a month-long campaign to purge the internet of ex-criminals, “sexy” women and binge eaters. The goal of this moral cleansing is to wipe out “bad” and “unhealthy” tendencies, clean up the “online ecology” and limit the spread of “bad culture”. The South China Morning Post has more details here.

RT France, Russia’s last official propaganda bastion in the West, has closed. The French arm of the state-backed broadcaster was the only survivor of the EU ban on Russian media in Europe, which was issued shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine last February. But the latest round of European Union sanctions on Russia resulted in a freeze on RT France’s assets and forced it to close. The Russian Foreign Ministry promised retaliation. But the ban does not mean the end of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaigns in Europe. Researchers in France anticipate that at least part of RT’s French-language content is preserved through mirror sites and social media.

RT may be shut down in Europe, but it’s growing in Africa, where the network is actively recruiting journalists from across the continent, offering “competitive packages” and the chance to join a company that offers “a real alternative to the Western perspective”. The quote is from an email shared with me by a Kenyan journalist RT is trying to hire. I’ve also seen WhatsApp messages to reporters across the continent from RT’s South African headquarters. It’s an impressive, comprehensive undertaking.

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RT’s focus on Africa is also deeply strategic. Take a look at the travel plan of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. This week he is back in Africa after enjoying a widely publicized visit to the continent in July, holding “wonderful” talks with South African officials in Pretoria. The result of Russia’s intensive courting of the continent: South Africa will hold joint naval exercises with Russia and China on its coast next month. South Africa’s foreign minister dismissed criticism of the exercises on Monday, saying hosting such exercises with “friends” was a “natural course of relations”.

Russia’s focus on improving relations and gaining support from Africa is just one example of the global consequences of the war in Ukraine. There are many more. We will gather to discuss them with editors from Asia, Africa and Europe at Coda’s first open editorial meeting of the year on 31 January. Coda members receive an exclusive invitation to the editorial meeting. Become a member of Coda today and receive an exclusive invitation to Coda’s editorial meeting.


There is an interesting and potentially relevant discussion going on at the UN. It frighteningly combines two trends we’re obsessed with: disinformation and transnational oppression.

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Here’s Coda’s Isobel Cockerell:

In Vienna for the past two weeks, the UN committee has grappled with the most glaring concepts: what is cybercrime and how should countries combat and prosecute criminals? Each member country was allowed to participate in the proposals under discussion.

Chinese diplomats raised the bar, arguing that every country should pass laws criminalizing the spread of “false information that could lead to serious social disorder.” In practice, in China today, this means shutting down all critics of the Chinese Communist Party in the name of banning disinformation.

“The Chinese guest star suddenly appeared,” wrote Cyber ​​Security Institute director Karine Bannelier, who followed the proceedings and posted about them on LinkedIn. “This should be a concern for human rights advocates.”

More than a dozen countries moved against China to overturn the proposal. Iran and Cape Verde were the only ones to support China.

China’s proposal is a huge red flag that shows us that the CCP is trying to strengthen its tight control of free speech while claiming to be fighting fake news.

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“It’s another example of China trying to shape the global governance of digital information to match domestic regulations,” said Bryce Barros, a China affairs analyst at the Alliance for Securing Democracy. He said the proposal shows how China has ways of trying to “move UN bodies to model its domestic control of digital information globally.”

He described that, if passed, the proposal could embolden governments with authoritarian tendencies to stifle free speech – simply by broadly defining it as misinformation.


  • Open Democracy’s exclusive account of how the British government helped Russian warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin carry out a targeted legal attack on a journalist in London.
  • This BBC investigation into Nigerian politicians hiring social media influencers to spread disinformation before elections. Read more about Coda’s February elections.
  • And our very own podcast on Audible. “Undercurrents: Tech, Tyrants and Us” brings stories of people from around the world whose lives were turned upside down when digital technology collided with authoritarians. Give it a listen and let us know what you think.

We look beyond fake news to explore how manipulating stories, rewriting history, and changing our memories are shaping our world.


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