China remain vigilant over online porn

Strict Net policing to continue even as Web ban is partially lifted in Xinjiang province following July's riots in the city, according to Chinese news report.

The Chinese government has agreed to gradually allow Web access for people in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, nearly six months after bloody riots in the region's capital led to a province-wide Internet cut-off, according to state-controlled press.

The China Daily reported Wednesday that two Web sites--xinhuanet.com and people.com.cn--can now be accessed by people in the province, while international calls and text messages are thought to be next in line to come back on.

However, online access is restricted as Xinjiang users cannot leave comments on, or view the forum section in these Web sites, China Daily noted. E-mail services provided by the sites are also inaccessible.

"We know the suspension of telecommunication services has caused great inconvenience to people, and we appreciate their understanding and support to the measures from the perspective of safeguarding social stability," said Yang Maofa, director of the regional telecommunications administration, in the report.

The move may be a small respite for Chinese Net users, who have had to experience tighter Internet regulations and censorship during 2009 as part of the government's anti-pornography campaign.

Several popular Web and social networking sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, as well as Chinese content-sharing and user-generated content sites have a target of China's expansive Net filtering efforts over the course of the year.

Earlier in the month, the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), which runs the top level .cn domain, announced that from Dec. 14, only businesses are allowed to register for a domain name. The new regulations, noted New York-based industry watcher Milton Mueller in a blog post, is the Chinese government's attempt to use its control over domain names "to impose more strict controls over the Internet".

In addition, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has implemented new Internet regulations that require domain management entities and Internet service providers (ISPs) to further control domain name registration, according to a Reuters report last week.

The development, added the report, suggests the Chinese government is trying to create a whitelist of government-approved sites that may shut out much of the Web for the Chinese Net population, which hit 298 million at the start of the year and is the largest worldwide.

Rebecca MacKinnon of the Journalism and Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong told Reuters: "One interpretation is that all foreign Web sites would need to register in order not to be blocked in China.

"These are the folks who brought us Green Dam, so anything is possible. They are people with a track record of emitting unreasonable schemes."

APAC economies step up Web filtering
China is not alone in taking steps to protect Internet users against undesirable content.

This month, Australia announced that it would introduce legislation by mid-2010 to make ISP filtering mandatory. Once the regulations kick in, all ISPs will be required to block overseas-hosted sites that have been given a "Refused Classification" rating by the Australian government.

Over in India, British broadsheet the Guardian reported Monday that several Web sites, including Yahoo's search engine and Flickr photo-sharing site and Microsoft's Bing search engine, have introduced filters to prevent users from accessing online sexual content.

Guardian said the companies were responding to a revision to India's Information Technology Act of 2000, which stipulate that a wide range of providers from ISPs and search engine operators to Internet cafés have to exercise due diligence and disable access to any "lascivious" content. Yahoo's changes are said to also apply to users in Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea.

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