(Cross-posted at Daily Kos.com)
Earlier this week the New York Times reported that China is requiring all bloggers and owners of personal web sites to register with the government. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/08/international/asia/08china.html?oref=loginThose failing to comply will be shut down. Though these regulations were made public in March, they only took effect this week.
This is seen as a way to both intimidate and send the sites abroad. Reporters Without Borders:
“The Chinese authorities use this type of announcement above all to intimidate Web site operators and bloggers,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement. “The authorities also hope to push the most outspoken online sites to migrate abroad, where they will become inaccessible to those inside China because of the Chinese filtering systems.”
As elsewhere, use of the internet has grown explosively and has proven to be an effective means for organizing. This was evident recently when organizers relied on the internet for anti-Japanese demonstrations. The Chinese government has had increasing concern:
Growing concern among China’s leaders about the destabilizing potential of the Internet comes during a campaign of increasingly harsh measures against political dissent, arrests of journalists and other restrictions on expression. The tone has been set by President Hu Jintao himself, who, quoting Mao, has warned against insurrection, saying, “A spark from heaven can light up an entire plain.”
Through registration, the government is able to monitor the online activities of individuals. Site Administators have received warnings about politically offensive content:
Web administrators at popular online services have also been warned that they will be held responsible for politically offensive communications, thereby enlisting them in the policing efforts. It is now common for administrators to remove from their servers any messages they deem politically sensitive.
Finally, the government is employing its own propaganda agents for chat room debate:
In another step to control the Internet, a newspaper, Southern Weekend, recently reported, the government has begun employing online commentators whose job is to defend the government’s point of view when negative comments appear on Internet chat rooms. The propaganda agents pose as ordinary users and try to steer discussion in the government’s favor.
Gorvernment-sponsored propaganda, it all sounds too familiar.