China shuts down over 13,000 websites in past three years, to ‘maintain a clean cyberspace’

State news agency Xinhua, in reporting the figures, cites a survey where over 9 in 10 people supported government efforts to manage the internet

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 December, 2017, 8:56pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 3:15pm

China has shut down more than 13,000 websites since the beginning of 2015 in a continuous campaign against “illegal information” online, state news agency Xinhua reported on Sunday.

The closures are part of Beijing’s moves to tighten control of the internet and as it previously explained, “maintain a clean cyberspace”.

Closer official scrutiny of online content began when President Xi Jinping first came into power five years ago. While critics said the moves restricted freedom of speech and were aimed at preventing criticism of the Communist Party, authorities maintained they were merely cutting out pornography and violent content online.

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Across the country, the authorities have enforced mass cancellations of the licences of net operators and closed down websites.

The Cyberspace Administration of China summoned more than 2,200 website operators in China for talks, and closed nearly 10 million user accounts “that had violated relevant law and regulations”, Xinhua reported.

It added that the internet watchdog had targeted all platforms including websites, mobile apps, online forums, blogs, microblogs, social networks, instant messaging platforms and live broadcasts.

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China rolled out a controversial cybersecurity law this June that among other things, requires any company dealing with China to store all “critical data and the data from critical information infrastructure” on the mainland. The data cannot be easily transferred out of the country, something that foreign businesses argue will have a negative impact on them.

The Xinhua report also quoted Wang Shengjun, the vice-chairman of the country’s top legislative body, as saying: “The [National People’s Congress] standing committee launched an inspection of enforcement of a new law less than three months after it is in effect, which is unprecedented.

“These moves have a powerful deterrent effect,” he said.

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The report said that internet security concerns were closely intertwined with “the party’s long-term hold on power, the country’s long-term peace and stability, socio-economic development and the people’s personal interests”.

It added that the National People’s Congress had commissioned a survey where more than 90 per cent of interviewees supported government efforts to manage the internet, with 63.5 per cent of them believing that in recent years, there had been an obvious reduction in harmful online content.