China imposes stricter Internet rules

New regulations officially abolish anonymity, ‘illegal’ material

Tags: China
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China imposes stricter Internet rules China has long monitored and censored Internet activity, blocking sites such as Facebook and YouTube.
By  Stephen McBride Published  December 30, 2012

The Chinese government announced stricter Internet controls on Friday, including measures that compel service providers to inform authorities of "illegal" material, and powers to allow the deletion of such resources, Reuters reported.

At the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) recent World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai, China was co-signatory to a Russia-authored proposal that called for an end to the US control of Internet addressing and asserted a desire to control Web access more tightly. Although the proposal was withdrawn and the conference ended in a stalemate on Internet governance, member nations of the ITU are not bound to any terms in the treaties they sign.

China's move to tighten Web control also comes soon after a transfer of leadership in the country, with the reins passing to Communist Party chief Xi Jinping. The new rules signify an escalation in the government's policy of stifling dissent, although in reality, political debates through the Internet present little chance for anonymity. Despite the new rules stipulating that users' real names must be registered with their provider, this practice is already in effect and Internet activity has long been monitored and censored by authorities and providers alike. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube are blocked and users of Sina Corp's nationally popular Weibo blog are required to register real names.

"Service providers are required to instantly stop the transmission of illegal information once it is spotted and take relevant measures, including removing the information and saving records, before reporting to supervisory authorities," the rules state.

Li Fei, deputy head of parliament's legislative affairs committee, insisted that illegal activity did not extend to the reporting of corrupt government officials, referring to fears that the Web clampdown coincided with a recent wave of corruption scandals exposed through online resources. The Chinese government has claimed in the past that it encourages such exposures.

"When people exercise their rights, including the right to use the Internet, they must do so in accordance with the law and constitution, and not harm the legal rights of the state, society ... or other citizens," Li told reporters.

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