China is well-known for running the most extensive (and one of the most repressive) Internet censorship regimes on the planet…and the world may have another example of China’s stance regarding free speech on the Internet today, as dozens of blogs run by some of the Chinese government’s most outspoken critics have been shut down. And authorities don’t seem to just be targeting blogs run directly by critics: one of the country’s leading Twitter-like microblogging services (Netease) has also gone offline, with three other microblogging—Sohu, Sina, and Tencent—sites now all suddenly displaying “beta” tags.
Microblogging and social networking services have become popular with Chinese bloggers and activists, who use the services to engage in short-burst exchanges with their followers as well as to promote longer pieces promoted elsewhere. The Chinese government previously hadn’t interfered significantly with microblogging services, although it has blocked access to services like Twitter and Facebook.
Online lists of shuttered blogs indicate more than 60 have been shut down in the current sweep…although fastidious bloggers are already setting up new blogs, sometimes on the same services that hosted the now-closed blogs.
The Chinese government has repeatedly characterized its citizens’ access to the Internet as free and unrestricted, while at the same time maintaining it has every right to restrict and block information it deems harmful and preserve Chinese culture. Examples include violent content and pornography, but also includes politically sensitive information, such as calls for democracy in China, information about Tibet and the Falun Gong movement, and other topics. The Chinese government has also shut down Internet access in regions experiencing civic unrest.
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