China orders dozens of websites to close

CHINA will shut down or punish dozens of video-sharing websites for carrying content deemed pornographic, violent or a threat to national security under rules that tighten internet controls, a regulator said yesterday.

The announcement came as Chinese web surfers were blocked from seeing foreign sites with video about protests in Tibet. The new order did not mention the anti-government demonstrations or China’s resulting crackdown.

One of China’s most popular video-sharing sites, Tudou.com, was among those penalised, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television said. It gave no details of Tudou’s violation. Other big competitors such as Youku.com and 56.com were not cited.

Rules that took effect on January 31 ban sites from distributing online video that involves national secrets, hurts the reputation of China, disrupts social stability or promotes pornography. Websites are required to delete and report such content.

Communist authorities have also tightened controls on Chinese media ahead of this summer’s Beijing Olympics in hopes of stopping content that might tarnish a national prestige event.

In the recent sweep, regulators ordered 25 websites to shut down and will punish 32 others following a two-month investigation, the administration said on its website. It gave no details of penalties and phone calls to the office were not answered.

The companies knew the penalties were coming, and they do not appear to be connected to efforts to block footage of the protests in Tibet, said Duncan Clark, managing director of BDA China Ltd, a Beijing consulting firm.

A Tudou.com vice president, Dan Brody, said the site received a warning. However, he declined further comment.

The industry has grown quickly as a source of news in a country where the government owns all newspapers and broadcasters and enforces the ruling Communist Party’s censorship guidelines.

Meanwhile, US-based Darfur peace activists, who have spearheaded efforts to organise a boycott of this year’s Olympic Games, said that their computer systems have come under attack from Chinese authorities.

The Save Darfur Coalition said it had notified the FBI.

A US Defence Department annual assessment of China’s military said it had launched hacker attacks on foreign computer networks.

Save Darfur holds China partly responsible for the violence in Darfur in western Sudan.

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