Chinese Firms Agree To Increase Online Censorship

The Chinese Government continues its Internet censorship campaign, after it gained the agreement of major Chinese businesses, including search engine firm Baidu and e-commerce giant Alibaba, to increase their own censorship actions.

The pledge came after the heads of 39 major Chinese businesses, including the leading internet and online firms, gathered for a three day government-sponsored meeting.

According to official Chinese media, the firms agreed to “curb rumours” and the spreading of “harmful information”, the BBC reported.

Safeguarding Positive Messages

It said that the meeting was presided over by Wang Chen, director of the State Council Information Office, the government’s propaganda and information arm.

The Chinese firms reportedly agreed to “conscientiously safeguard the broadcasting of positive messages online,” according to the Xinhua news agency.

China is the world’s biggest internet market with an estimated 500 million users. The Chinese government routinely blocks citizens from viewing searches and websites it deems subversive under the Golden Shield Project or Great Firewall.

However, it also relies on the co-operation and active censorship actions of local firms.

Right To Censor?

Only last month, the Chinese government defended its right to censor the Internet, in response to American pressure to explain the online censorship of US firms operating in that region. It said the censorship was necessary to “safeguard the public”.

In July, a Chinese think tank (the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) revealed that the number of websites in China had nearly halved since 2009. It said there had been a 41 percent drop to 1.91 million websites on the Chinese mainland between the end of 2009 and the end of 2010.

Many blame the Chinese government censorship campaigns for the fall in the number of websites.

For example, in January the Chinese government boasted that its “Great Firewall” had deleted 350 million pieces of harmful information as part of its 2010 campaign to clean up the web by shutting what it judged to be harmful sites.

Twitter, Facebook Banned

Banned websites in China include Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. China also added Skype on its list of blocked services in December.

The rigid censorship of the Internet by China is a cause for ongoing concern and worry for other nations around the world.

The US government has often taken the lead and pressed the Chinese authorities over why so many US companies are blocked from providing services via the Internet.

The censorship concerns come amid the continuing cyber-wars between the Chinese and other nations.

Only last week, a report published by the US Office of the National Counter Intelligence Executive accused Russia and China of being the “most aggressive collectors” of US economic and technology secrets.

Chinese hacking threats were also behind the recent comments by Major General Jonathan Shaw, the UK’s head of cyber security, who warned that hacking by foreign governments and corporations is regularly putting British companies out of business.

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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