THE GLORIOUS PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC of China has ordered a widespread crackdown on the internet in attempts to prevent uprisings like those seen in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
The secretary of the Communist Party, Liu Qi has warned internet service providers (ISPs) in the country that they must tighten control of online content to "prevent the spread of fake and harmful information" and that the internet companies should "resist" such information, the Associated Press reports.
It's not clear how the Chinese government expects the ISPs to control content online, but it's likely that it wants them to monitor people's online activities and disconnect those participating in the spread of dissenting views.
The exact punishment for not cooperating was not disclosed, but Beijing could shut down an ISP altogether if it proves defiant.
The government-approved Beijing Internet Media Association also called on its 104 members to police the internet for "rumors or vulgar contents", saying that the public "should be led toward a correct direction" - the proper direction being support of the government, of course.
The internet played a huge role in the overthrow of repressive regimes in northern Africa, including Tunisia, Egypt and, more recently although to a lesser extent, Libya. Protests were organised via Twitter and Facebook, showing the power of social networking, and when the plug was pulled on the internet, Google developed a tool by which users could text tweets from their mobile phones. A similar approach could conceivably be taken in China if the clampdown gets out of hand.
China's equivalent of Twitter, Sina, which has over 140 million users, has been a particular focus of censorship. The company has been forced to monitor users, with over 100 employees checking for dissenting views 24 hours a day. Of course, with such a large user base it might be impossible to censor everything.
Internet censorship has existed in China for many years and resulted in Google partially withdrawing from the country, redirecting its mainland search engine to the Hong Kong equivalent. Many foreign web sites are banned in the country, but this latest move marks one of the strictest crackdowns on internet freedom, which could cause more upset and dissent amongst its citizens. µ
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