Thu, Jul 15, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Clampdown rumored as China ‘twitter’ sites down

AGENCIES , SHANGHAI and BEIJING

Chinese social networking Web sites that provide Twitter-like services have suddenly reverted to testing mode and access has been spotty amid reports of a government clampdown.

Although Twitter has been banned for more than a year in China, Chinese Internet companies have been quick to fill the void, providing microblogging services that allow users to post frequent updates and follow other posters.

Yesterday, NetEase.com Inc’s microblog was inaccessible. A notice said the site had been down since 7pm on Tuesday and was under maintenance. Sohu.com Inc’s microblog was also shut down for more than a day earlier in the week and all Chinese “twitters” now display the notice “in testing mode.”

Company sources said the developments were the result of tightened government controls over the new services.

“Nobody will publicly announce the reason, but it is as obvious as a fly on a bald head,” one source said, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post cited unnamed “industry sources” as saying that the Web sites were under pressure from Chinese censors.

Meanwhile, the developer of a controversial Internet filter software in China has denied it has closed because of a lack of funding, but it confirmed it was having financial difficulties, state media said yesterday.

The general manager of Beijing Dazheng Human Language Technology Academy — one of two companies behind Green Dam Youth Escort — said the company’s office had not closed nor had 30 employees been dismissed, the China Daily reported.

Chen Xiaomeng, however, said the company had been forced to move its office to a new location in Beijing because of financial problems.

“We are going to publish clarifications,” Chen was quoted as saying.

Last year, China ordered all computer makers to bundle the Green Dam software with any new personal computer sold in the country from July 1 last year.

In related news, a leading Chinese Internet regulator has vowed to reduce anonymity in China’s portion of cyberspace, calling for requirements that people use their real names when buying a mobile phone or go online, New York-based Human Rights in China said.

In an address to the National People’s Congress in April, Wang Chen (王晨), director of the State Council Information Office, called for perfecting the censorship system the government uses to manage the fast-evolving Internet.

Chen’s comments were reported only briefly when they were made in April. Human Rights in China said the government quickly removed a full transcript posted on the legislature’s Web site.

However, the group said it found an unexpurgated text and the discrepancies show that Beijing is wary that its tightening of controls might prove unpopular.

Wang said holes that needed to be plugged included ways people could post comments or access information anonymously, according to the transcript published this week in China Rights Forum.

“We will make the Internet real name system a reality as soon as possible, implement a nationwide cellphone real name system, and gradually apply the real name registration system to online interactive processes,” the journal quoted Wang as saying.

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