Thu, Jun 13, 2019 - Page 6 News List

China blocks Web sites, accounts in new push

Reuters, BEIJING

China has launched a new campaign to clean up its Internet, state media said, amid a fresh wave of apparent censorship by Beijing blocking more foreign media Web sites and shutting down domestic accounts on social media.

The joint effort was launched last month by the Chinese Cyberspace Administration, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Public Security Bureau and Securities Regulatory Commission, and is to run until the end of the year, Xinhua news agency reported.

The “rectification” campaign would punish and expose Web sites for “illegal and criminal actions,” failing to “fulfill their obligation” to take safety measures or for the theft of personal information, it added.

The campaign follows a series of shutdowns and blockages of certain Web sites and social media accounts.

Several foreign media beyond Beijing’s control, such as the Washington Post, the Guardian and Reuters, have not been accessible online since last weekend, adding to a list of blocked sites.

Online Chinese financial news publication on Monday said that it took its Web site and mobile app offline at authorities’ request, but gave no details of the rules it might have broken.

Social media accounts ranging from those publishing politically sensitive material to financial news have also been shut.

Authorities in November last year said that they shut 9,800 accounts of news providers deemed to be posting sensational, vulgar or politically harmful content.

“The cleaning drives are not purely political. Many, possibly even most, of those accounts were probably spam, porn or other types of content that the platforms have made clear are undesirable and unwelcome,” Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Fergus Ryan said. “The problem is that in among those legitimate removals are accounts that are removed for political reasons.”

Fang Shimin (方是民), a popular science writer who drew public scrutiny in China for critical comments about Huawei Technologies Co, said he found out on Tuesday that all of his Chinese social media accounts had been taken down.

Fang, who lives in the US, said he did not know what happened until some readers told him they could no longer find his postings and that the platform operators would not tell him why his accounts were shut down.

“My guess is that from now on any influential self-media accounts will not be allowed to exist, no matter [if] they are political or not,” Fang said in an e-mail.

The term “self-media” is mostly used on Chinese social media to describe independent news accounts that produce original content, but are not officially registered with the authorities.

“The Chinese Internet winter is coming,” Fang said.

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