In February the Chinese government unveiled a new round of Internet restrictions. Under the new rules, any individual seeking to start a personal website, such as a blog or photo-sharing page, must apply in person at their local Internet service provider’s offices. Website operators would have to show identification and allow the service provider to take their photo. The materials would then be sent to the government’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
The ministry claims the goal of these requirements is to track the spread of digital smut, which is in keeping with a crusade against sexually explicit material that began several years ago. In the summer of 2009, for example, the government asked Google to turn off one of its search engine functions in the hope of blocking access to porn.
But critics of the Chinese regime argue that pornography is just an excuse for suppressing online dissent. “The government feels increasingly insecure with their ability to control the Internet,” Xiao Qiang, director of the University of California at Berkeley’s China Internet Project, told the Los Angeles Times. “Therefore more and more policies and controlling practices are aimed at enhancing a self-policing environment.”