Beijing plans even tighter controls over the internet


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The Independent Tech

China plans to tighten restrictions on internet service providers as it seeks even greater control over the opinions voiced on microblogs and other web forums. A list of proposed changes to Beijing's internet law was released by the cabinet yesterday.

In December, China began requiring real name registration for nearly all microblogs on a city by city basis, though compliance has been patchy. The latest regulations appear to be aimed at beefing up enforcement by requiring companies to co-operate with police and threatening criminal punishment and loss of business licences for failure to comply.

The National Internet Information Office said in a statement that the requirement for microblogs helped curb illegal web activity and promote online trust and should be expanded to cover blogs and online discussion forums. Companies must be licensed and must guarantee that those using them be registered with their real identities, say the guidelines. The rules require internet companies to keep logs for 12 months and to provide technical assistance to the police and national security agencies.

China has more than 500 million internet users, the most of any country in the world. Internet sites that are deemed politically destabilising or pornographic are routinely blocked, and the government blocked Twitter and Facebook after they were instrumental in anti-government protests in Iran two years ago.