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China to Put Blogs under State Control

China plans tighter control of blogs and webcasts under a new Internet publishing law, state media in Beijing has quoted the country's top media supervisor as saying.

"Advanced network technologies such as blogging and webcasting have been mounting new challenges to the government's ability to supervise the Internet," then official Xinhua news agency quoted Long Xinmin, the head of China's Press and Publications Administration, as saying.

The government is drafting a law to bring blogs and webcasts under Internet publication regulations to ensure a "more healthy and active Internet environment," Long said.

Long gave no details of specific measures but said the new law would "fully respect and protect Chinese citizens' freedom of speech," the agency said.

China had an estimated 20.8 million bloggers at the end of 2006, of whom 3.15 million were active writers, according a recent government report.

Video-sharing websites were visited by about 76 million of the 137 million Chinese Internet users last year, bringing in 40 million yuan (about 5 million US dollars).

The agency said the need for legislation resulted from several cases last year "involving bloggers who had infringed on other people's privacy and written libelous material."

The cases had prompted the government to consider requiring all bloggers to give their full identify when they register, it said.

The estimated number of internet users soared by 23 percent to 137 million last year, putting its online population second behind the United States.

China's internet police block hundreds of websites that are deemed politically sensitive and try to keep content broadly in line with the ruling Communist Party's ideology.

A media rights group last month said China led the world in technological and judicial controls over online dissent, with 52 people in Chinese jails for internet-related offences at the end of last year.

Despite the huge growth of internet use, the government maintains control through sophisticated filtering tools and cooperation with domestic and global service providers and information technology firms, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said in an annual report on media freedom.

The government employs "armies of moderators to clean up the content produced by the bloggers" and "self-censorship is obviously in full force," the group said.

Tens of thousands of small internet cafes have been closed, with the government favouring large chains that can be relied upon to monitor and control online activity.






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