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China reinforces Internet controls

Associated Press / June 9, 2010

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BEIJING — China vowed yesterday to keep a tight grip on the Internet, saying it would continue to block anything considered subversive or threatening to “national unity.’’

The policy was released three months after a dispute over censorship prompted Google Inc. to shut its mainland-based search engine.

The government said there were 384 million Internet users in China at the end of 2009, about 29 percent of the population. It aims to boost that to 45 percent in the next five years by pushing into rural areas.

But China, which routinely blocks websites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, gave no sign there would be an easing of the “Great Firewall’’ — the nickname for the network of filters that keep mainland Web surfers from accessing material the government deems sensitive.

The official English translation of the policy favorably mentions Twitter — an apparent glitch, since the US microblogging service has been banned in China since last year. The English version named Twitter as an example of a fast-growing service that allows people to express themselves, while the Chinese version mentions only micro-blogs. The 31-page policy statement did not give examples of what content would be banned.

It put the onus on companies to block content deemed sensitive, saying China requires Internet service providers to set up “Internet security management systems and utilize technical measures to prevent the transmission of all types of illegal information.’’

Google ran afoul of the government when it accused Chinese hackers of trying to plunder its software coding and of hijacking the Gmail accounts of human rights activists, and said it would stop censoring its search results.

It moved its search service to the freer Chinese territory of Hong Kong in March. The policy statement did not mention Google, but said anyone in China has to respect its laws.