Fears of a fresh crackdown on Internet users in China have been raised after the country’s government unveiled proposals that could see it ban Web addresses not approved by local authorities.

The proposals would effectively create a government whitelist of approved websites that would act in conjunction with the “great Firewall of China” and tighten the Chinese government’s grip on online activities in that country.

Censorship Concerns

The proposed revision to domain name management regulations comes from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which is seeking feedback on the regulations.

It says that Internet domain names offering “domestic access” should only be provided by services supervised by the government.

This could potentially result in access to foreign web domains such as .com and .org being banned, as providers would need to apply to the ministry before the address is approved for the Chinese market. Failure to do so could result in fines up to 30,000 yuan ($4,600).

“Internet service providers must not provide network access services for domain names connected to the domestic network but which are not managed by domestic domain name registration service bodies,” the ministry was quoted by Reuters as saying in its draft of the rules.

The concern is that proposed rules would increase China’s ability to censor the Internet.

Websites for example that are hosted on Chinese servers but have their domain names registered overseas (so they cannot be completely closed down by authorities) could be at risk from the new regulations.

But the Chinese ministry has denied that these proposals conflict with global practices, and said the proposed rules do not affect websites outside of China’s borders.

The rules “do not involve websites that are accessed overseas, do not affect users from accessing the related Internet content and do not affect the normal development of business for overseas companies in China,” the ministry told Reuters in an email.

Great Firewall

China of course is widely considered to have one of the most repressive Internet censorship schemes designed to prevent criticism of the ruling Communist Party and suppress dissent and other information deemed to be dangerous.

Only approved content is allowed behind the so called “Great Firewall” of China for its 650 million Internet users.

And restrictions have increased under the reign of Chinese president Xi Jinping, who recently passed a law establishing “cybersovereignty,” and has made retweets of rumours a crime.

Of course, websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google continue to be restricted and banned in China.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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