An absence of major events this summer has seen supervision slide Efforts to stop a growing number of people viewing pornographic and politically sensitive internet content have slackened this summer. Frequent internet users say that although controls remain in place, the nation's 48.5 million internet users can often access websites that used to be blocked, including CNN and the BBC. Search engine results attacking former president Jiang Zemin can also be accessed now, as can websites explaining the Falun Gong. Blogspot.com, which includes comments on China, can be accessed on some mainland browsers after being blocked in January. About a year ago, when Public Security officials installed packet filters for automatic internet monitoring, sites containing a sensitive phrase or topic would return 'page cannot be displayed' messages and sometimes force users to restart their browsers. E-mail is also flowing more freely now than a year ago. Last autumn, web-based internet browsers returned error messages when asked to send explicit or sensitive e-mail. Today, mainland computer users can send and receive e-mails about the Falun Gong or the separatist movement in East Turkestan. 'There should be e-mail monitoring, but they don't look at all of it,' says Ma Lan, an information technology regulation expert with the consulting firm MFC Insight. She says that because the rate of e-mailing was too high for all-out supervision, authorities are focusing mainly on messages from high-profile organisations. Beijing-based industry experts say police still filter and block thousands of overseas websites branded as harmful to national security or social stability. Public Security officials never discuss internet filtering publicly. 'I don't know that I can say the extent to which it's happening beyond the observation that it does indeed continue today,' said Harvard University professor Jonathan Zittrain, who researches internet controls in China and other countries. A common guess is that the absence of major events has allowed supervision to slide this summer. June 4 is nine months away, the National People's Congress does not take place until March and no one spreads Sars rumours anymore. Other China internet experts say the authorities are focusing most on web portals, where users can state their views on the government anonymously. Police are understood to watch chat rooms daily and web portals themselves screen out messages on topics that the police or cultural officials have forbidden. A surge in portal-hosted personal websites has given the police something else to monitor, says Lu Xiaohu, a wireless games company owner who used to manage a portal. The use of portals escalates during major events such as political meetings, says Victor Koo, chief operating officer of the mainland portal Sohu.com. 'We increase our communication with the relevant regulatory authorities during major events to ensure that we understand related policies and guidelines during these peak traffic periods,' Mr Koo says. It is believed that users with good network connections are getting past the filters, while those with poorer connections are getting stuck. 'I have always thought that the filtering issue was overblown sometimes,' says Danny Levinson, chief operating officer of a Beijing-based e-mail software company.