China to Close Unregistered Web Sites

China is to close unregistered China-based domestic Web sites and blogs, a media watchdog said, as the government tightens its grip on the Internet.

Popular domestic Web portals are already pressured not to publish sensitive news and voluntarily patrol chatrooms and other areas of their sites for "politically incorrect" or "unapproved" statements and delete them. Beijing announced in March that every China-based Web site now had to register and provide complete information on its organizers by June 30 or face being declared illegal, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders group said in a statement seen on Tuesday.

"The plan is all the more worrying as the government has also revealed that it has a new system for monitoring sites in real time and spotting those that fail to comply," Reporters Without Borders said.

"This decision will enable those in power to control online news and information much more effectively."

Around three-quarters of domestic Web sites had complied with the registration orders, Reporters Without Borders quoted official Chinese figures as saying.

A report released by the OpenNet Initiative in April called China the world's leading censor of the Internet and said the government employed thousands of officials and private citizens to monitor and control online content.

But for all of Beijing's efforts to rein in the medium, pockets of free speech have appeared in Internet chatrooms and blogs.

"The authorities also hope to push the most outspoken online sites to migrate abroad, where they will become inaccessible to those inside China because of the Chinese filtering systems," Reporters Without Borders said.

Beijing regularly blocks access to some foreign Web pages, including sites run by Chinese dissidents living in exile abroad.

China is the world's second-largest Internet market, with about 100 million users and the number is growing.

It is also the world's largest jailer of cyber dissidents, having detained more than 60 people for expressing their views online, according to a Reporters Without Borders report from last June.

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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Although this will not happen anytime soon, I think we can expect to see the United States begin to clamp down on 'unapproved' and 'unregistered' web sites in the future. It is just a matter of time until the government gets a belly-full of the spam/scam/p*rn-ridden internet and decides to crack down hard. I mean, the s/s/p ridden internet is not an exception to the rule; it _is_ the rule and has been for a few years now. Watch and see ... at some point the little porky pig character will step out on the stage and say 'thats it, folks'. PAT]

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Lisa Minter
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