China plans a whole series of new internet policies

Censorship and "Sinicization" of capping technology as first steps

The number of ISPs in China has doubled in the past year, user growth has exceeded all expectations, and foreign investors are lurking for final WTO accession, while Madeleine Albright is already proclaiming how much the Internet will change China. The Chinese government therefore intends to draw the boundaries for doing business on the Internet in the course of the next few weeks. Last Wednesday, China’s National Bureau of Secrecy made a start with the publication of guidelines on the observance of secrecy obligations on the Internet.

The regulations, published in the party newspaper People’s Daily, address both the "physical separation" of networks in which data subject to secrecy is kept, as well as the dissemination of such data by service providers and users. "Information concerning state secrets, including information that has already been examined and confirmed within the framework of diplomatic cooperation and delivered abroad to the appropriate addressee in accordance with the law, may not be stored, handled or disseminated on servers", states in the original text quite comprehensively. Internet service providers, content providers and ordinary surfers are affected by the directive in the same way. The principle applies: "Responsible is who is online". In addition to news sites, chat rooms and Usenet groups are therefore also mentioned in the directive. Moreover, the users were not allowed to send any messages via email "State Secrets" send, forward or even make available to a broad public. Providers have to make appropriate agreements with their users for this purpose.

The enforcement of the directive is carried out by the offices responsible for state secrets at the appropriate administrative levels. For this purpose, they are to control the prerequisites of the users as well as those of the providers. For the users, this will mean that they will once again have to justify the registration process, which has now become almost unheard of. In general, however, it will also increase the pressure on users not to go too far out on a political limb, even on the Internet.

For the providers of domestic and foreign news, the directive may already mean a restructuring of their offers. In order to ensure that no data is lost in the daily news overview "State secrets" and their service is closed after a warning, they have to hold back on news from foreign media. As far as reports are not already published by regular media, the creators of news portals have to submit them to the authorities responsible for the press. Nor do the pioneers of the new news portals such as "Sina.Com", which recently received a visit from the Beijing mayor and a high-ranking party delegation, are not yet ready to change their offer. Wang Yan, manager of Sina.Com told Reuters he was not overly concerned and doubted the rules would stop user-posted self-reports about sports and entertainment.

But it is precisely the cyber reporters sprouting from the ground that are a thorn in the side of the institutions responsible for the press, the propaganda department of the CP and the State Bureau for Press and Publications. New guidelines for the publication of news on the Internet are therefore also expected from this side in the next few weeks. A representative of the press bureau told the Hong Kong newspaper Wenhui Bao: "We buried that traditional media use the net to disseminate news, and we demand the same. Non-media organizations that put information on the net should only select and disseminate it. Because their quality and qualification is unconfirmed, in the current guidelines for journalists there are no ‘cyber journalists’, these had to undergo a fixed admission procedure." Whether the new regulations will then help "cyber journalist" will be discussed in the next few days at the second meeting of the "Internet conference" of the press authorities and the Ministry of Information Industry (MII). However, there is no interest in weakening the well-established media regulation that exists for the traditional media.

On the other hand, the cross-sectional ministry MII is quite open-minded. On its own homepage, the ministry asked for comments on a planned directive on quality assurance in the area of electronic services. This directive, too, is expected to become law shortly.

On the other hand, an inter-ministerial working group, which is considering the quasi-"sinization" of the sealing technology. Only yesterday the Washington Post quoted a representative of the "State Commission for the Management of Capping Techniques" with the fact that from 31. January, any capping technique used in China must be registered with the Commission. In addition, according to the report, in the future all electronic devices in China will use Chinese encryption software. In the case of imported devices, this would mean disclosing patented source codes. While foreign investors may still be able to come to terms with all the restrictions on content, some companies were allowed to cede the "key authority" to China’s public security bureau may have caused some companies to feel a pang of anxiety. The longed-for WTO accession has significantly increased regulatory pressure in China.

And what do users in China have to say about all this?? An online survey by search fox was answered by over 7000 users within a few hours today. "Nowadays, unchecked rumors are posted on the Internet from all kinds of websites that show little sense of responsibility, which is extremely damaging to journalism. How do you think news should be developed on the web??" 1512 visitors were in favor of strict control, 1820 were in favor of consistent improvement of technical conditions, and 3483 Chinese surfers (51 percent) said quite simply with regard to their medium: "Let it develop itself." ()

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