China cracks down on bids to by­pass on­line cen­sor­ship

Pakistan Today (Karachi) - - NEWS -

China has an­nounced a 14-month cam­paign to “clean up” in­ter­net ser­vice providers and crack down on de­vices such as vir­tual pri­vate net­works (VPNs) used to evade strict cen­sor­ship. The rul­ing Com­mu­nist party over­sees a vast ap­pa­ra­tus de­signed to cen­sor on­line con­tent deemed po­lit­i­cally sen­si­tive, while block­ing some Western web­sites and the ser­vices of in­ter­net gi­ants in­clud­ing Face­book, Twit­ter and Google.

It passed a con­tro­ver­sial cy­ber­se­cu­rity bill last Novem­ber, tight­en­ing re­stric­tions on on­line free­dom of speech and im­pos­ing new rules on ser­vice providers. But com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als of­ten use VPNs to ac­cess the un­fet­tered in­ter­net be­yond China’s “Great Fire­wall”. Tele­com and in­ter­net ser­vice providers will no longer be al­lowed to set up or rent spe­cial lines such as VPNs with­out of­fi­cial ap­proval, the min­istry of in­dus­try and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy said Sun­day. Its “clean up” cam­paign would last through March 2018, it said in a state­ment on its web­site. The an­nounce­ment comes days af­ter Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping ex­tolled glob­al­i­sa­tion and de­nounced pro­tec­tion­ism in a key­note speech at the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Davos, where he in­sisted that China was com­mit­ted to “open­ing up”.

China’s in­ter­net ac­cess ser­vices mar­ket has grown rapidly, and the “first signs of dis­or­derly devel­op­ment are also ap­pear­ing, cre­at­ing an ur­gent need for reg­u­la­tion”, the state­ment said. The new rules were needed to “strengthen in­ter­net in- for­ma­tion se­cu­rity man­age­ment”, it added. IT ex­pert Li Yi told the Global Times news­pa­per, which of­ten takes a na­tion­al­is­tic tone, the new reg­u­la­tions were “ex­tremely im­por­tant”. While some multi­na­tion­als such as Mi­crosoft needed VPNs to com­mu­ni­cate with over­seas head­quar­ters, other com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als “browse over­seas in­ter­net pages out of il­le­gal mo­ti­va­tions”, Li said. A 2015 re­port by US think tank Free­dom House found that China had the most re­stric­tive In­ter­net poli­cies of 65 coun­tries it stud­ied, rank­ing be­low Iran and Syria. China is home to the world’s largest num­ber of in­ter­net users, which to­talled 731 mil­lion as of De­cem­ber, the gov­ern­ment-linked China In­ter­net Net­work In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter said Sun­day.

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