China blocks Web sites

The Chinese government has blocked access to hundreds of Web sites it considers to be politically sensitive, including those run by human rights groups, foreign newspapers, Tibetan independence groups and Taiwanese and Hong Kong political organisations. The action, which began last week, appeared to be part of Peking's ongoing campaign against "spiritual pollution".

The Web sites for the Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post were blocked, plus that of the Cable News Network (CNN). Also targeted were the sites of most Hong Kong and Taiwan newspapers and magazines, sites set up by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and sites popular with Chinese students

Experts in the United States say that Internet censorship in China is relatively easy because the country's links to the Net pass through several "choke points" controlled by the government.

AOL fights 'spammers'

A judge in the United States has ordered America Online to stop blocking advertising messages sent to its Net subscribers by commercial bulk e- mail sites. The practice, called "spamming", is a thriving business in the US.

Last week, AOL began to block Internet sites responsible for sending millions of the unsolicited e-mail adverts, claiming it was receiving complaints from thousands of its US subscribers. However, on Friday, one of the spamming operators, Cyber Promotions Inc, obtained a federal court order prohibiting the blocking of its e-mail by AOL. In March, Cyber Promotions filed a lawsuit against AOL after it began "spamming the spammers" by returning e-mail to the advertisers who had hired Cyber Promotions to send it.

AOL has vowed to appeal against the court order, and hopes to have it overturned before the lawsuit goes to trial in November.