China Loses More Than A Million Websites

China lost nearly half of its websites last year, a Chinese government think tank has revealed.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences reported yesterday that there was a 41 percent drop to 1.91 million websites on the Chinese mainland between the end of 2009 and the end of 2010.

Independant experts blamed government censorship campaigns, but the report said it was due to economic troubles and campaigns against pornography and spam.

“China has a very high level of freedom of online speech,” Liu Ruisheng, one of the editors of the report told the South China Morning Post. “There have been very few cases where websites were shut down in recent years purely to control speech.”

But one Internet analyst, also speaking to the paper disagreed.

“The number of interactive websites, including online forums, has plummeted,” said Wu Qiang, an Internet analyst at Tsinghua University. “The drop in numbers was effective in controlling speech. Online forums and bulletin boards are much less active than before.”

Propaganda machine guns

The government report said ideological safety was a priority in the age of the Internet, and in light of the US government’s Voice of America shifting propaganda from radio to online.

“It’s normal for the US to try to influence other countries with its own ideology and China is its No1 target and rival,” Liu said.

“The withdrawal of Google last year was a complete political conspiracy planned by Google and the US government, in which new media became an important tool for the US in pursuing hegemony and reining in other countries, like a machine gun in a political attack on China.”

In 2009 China began cracking down on websites in a campaign ostensibly targeting obscene content, closing down websites that were not ‘officially registered’.

The word ‘jasmine’ is reported to be newly included on the list of terms filtered online, in response to online chatter regarding ‘jasmine rallies’ along the lines of the Arab revolutions earlier this year.

The Great Firewall

China reportedly has 457 million Internet users on the mainland.

The Chinese government routinely blocks citizens from viewing search terms and websites it has deemed subversive under the Golden Shield Project or Great Firewall.

In January this year eWEEK Europe UK reported the Chinese government’s boasts that the Great Firewall had purged 350 million pieces of harmful in 2010.

Google drew criticism in the past for colloaborating with the Chinese on censorship of searches related to Tiananmen Square, Tibetan and Taiwanese independence and the Falun Gong movement.

In March 2010 it stopped this practice, closed its Chinese office in 2010 and began re-routing searches through Hong Kong in protest at alleged Chinese Government hacking of Gmail accounts belonging to dissidents.

However, the Great Firewall still censors searches from google.com.hk.

David Jamieson

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