Chinese censors tightening grip on web

Internet censors in China are becoming more sophisticated in how they monitor the web and eradicate content deemed sensitive, according to a report.

Chinese censors tightening grip on web

The report, published by Reporters Without Borders and the group China Human Rights Defenders, is apparently written by a technician working for a Chinese internet firm and details the workings of a censorship machine that spans the information ministry, the cabinet and the police.

“Prior to 2005, the Beijing authorities had not really organised an internet control system,” the report says, before going on to describe how they now keep close tabs on online public opinion, reporting daily and weekly to senior leaders, while employing various targeted tactics to keep sites in line.

After a newspaper reported in 2006 that the Taiwanese electronics firm Foxconn, which makes iPods, mistreated workers, the report claims that sites received SMS messages saying, “Do not disseminate reports about the Foxconn case so that it is not exploited by those who want independence to advance their cause.”

Many sites, it says, receive as many as five messages a day from supervisory bodies instructing them how to handle sensitive issues or ordering to reject, or pull down, certain content. It also claims that 400-500 taboo words are banned, and websites self-censor these words to avoid fines.

The report goes on to describe a case in 2006 when Netease, one of China’s top websites, conducted a poll that asked readers would they want to be Chinese again if they were reborn. Of the 10,000 who responded, 64% apparently said no. The report claims that as a result Netease was forced to fire the editor of its culture section and shut down the debate section.

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