China's government takes on microblogs, blogs, online forums

With ever-increasing restrictions on online activity, Chinese authorities are trying to make Internet service providers act as Web police for the government.

Last month it was blog users, this month it's blog owners. The Chinese government announced today that it will tighten restrictions on all Internet service providers for blogs, microblogs, and online forums -- forcing them to act as Web police, according to the Associated Press.

This is just the latest in a long list of restrictions that the government is enforcing on its citizens. According to the Associated Press, China began requiring real-name registration on all microblogs in December. However, people still seem to be sneaking under the radar.

The new restrictions entail making the Internet providers act as regulators in for real-name registration, according to the Associated Press. The blogs and microblogs are now required to work with the police and warn users of criminal punishment if they don't follow the rules and use their real identities. Additionally, all providers must be licensed and keep logs for a year that will serve to "provide technical assistance" to the authorities.

China is a blogging and microblogging powerhouse with hundreds of millions of people using those sites daily. Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like service, has more than 300 million users, which is far more than Twitter's active users. The growth of blogging sites has resulted in a rapid expansion of places where Chinese people can express themselves -- something the government has long viewed as a threat.

At the end of April, Sina Weibo came under fire by the government for fueling "toxic rumors" about a possible political coup and the social network was punished by having user comments deactivated for three days.

Just a couple of weeks later, in May, the Twitter-like service announced plans to establish a "user contract." The contract, which has dozens of rules, bans "promoting evil teachings and superstitions," "spreading rumors," and "calling for disruption of social order through illegal gatherings."

About the author

Dara Kerr, a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area, is fascinated by robots, supercomputers and Internet memes. When not writing about technology and modernity, she likes to travel to far-off countries.

 

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