China Prepares to Beef Up Internet Censorship and Regulated Content
This week, the Chinese government announced the creation of a new office within the State Council General Information Office. The role of this office is to oversee and coordinate the efforts of the many agencies and authorities within the Chinese government who regulate Internet activity. The Chinese government is not putting new resources to its regulation of the Internet, but using existing staff from the Information Office. The management of the office will, however, include officials from the Ministries of Industry and Information Technology and Public Security. The English version of the announcement includes duties that range from innocuous (e.g. “promoting government online publicity work”) to ominous (“investigate and punish website violating laws and regulations”).
The new office is generally viewed as an effort to improve efficiency and resolve potential issues caused by turf battles among the existing agencies. The move by the Chinese was likely motivated by the impact that online services such as Facebook and Twitter had on the political uprisings in the Middle East. As a result, the Chinese hope the new office will improve coordination and oversight of their already strict and actively enforced internet censorship regulations. It remains unclear whether these companies, and other U.S.-based online services, will face increased censorship and/or blocking as a result. It does, however, signal that the Chinese are not backing away from their tight control on user expression and access to information despite the diplomatic efforts of the United States on Global Internet Freedom.