Internet users in China face tougher times

Small business owner says Yahoo! site is not accessible in the country

Tags: CensorshipChinaCyber crimeCyber espionageGoogle IncorporatedMicrosoft CorporationYahoo! Incorporated
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Internet users in China face tougher times China is boosting its laws, demanding that internet companies reveal information on all users discussing state secrets. (Getty Images)
By  Vineetha Menon Published  April 29, 2010

China is strengthening a law that will see telecommunication and internet companies disclosing information on customers who discuss state secrets.

The existing law on Guarding State Secrets is being amended so that "information transmissions should be immediately stopped if they are found to contain state secrets," a Xinhua News Agency report states.

It follows a high-profile cyber attack originating from China that saw more than twenty U.S. companies preyed upon, including internet search leader Google. The Chinese government denied any involvement but relations went from bad to worse until Google finally decided shut down search on Google.cn and redirect its users to the Hong Kong search page.

A few days later, Yahoo! e-mail accounts of some journalists and activists in the country were compromised.

A source in China, who wishes to be identified only as S.B., noticed his site that is hosted on Yahoo! Small Business has been inaccessible in the country. Calls for clarification and support from Yahoo! in the United States led to an e-mail response that reads:

"We regret to inform you that we are unable to guarantee your site will be viewable outside the US, as Yahoo! Inc. is based in the United States and we are unable to dictate the actions that local authorities or service providers at your location may take to prevent access to sites or services."

In 2005 Yahoo! sold its operations in the country to Chinese internet firm Alibaba, which Yahoo! maintains a 39% stake in. A spokesperson clarified to itp.net that Yahoo! no longer has operational control or day-to-day management over the Yahoo! China business.

Microsoft is the only one playing ball with Chinese authorities directly now, with CEO Steve Ballmer recently stating that: "We have done business in China for more than 20 years and we intend to stay engaged, which means our business must respect the laws of China."

Microsoft, Yahoo! and Google all claim to be committed to freedom of expression and privacy as members of the Global Network Initiative (GNI), where one of the key principles is that ‘participating companies will respect and protect the privacy rights of users when confronted with government demands, laws or regulations that compromise privacy in a manner inconsistent with internationally recognized laws and standards'.

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