China Launches Strict New Internet Controls (With Photo)

Anyone who wants to open a website in China now has to have a face-to-face meeting with regulators first, AP reports:

The state-sanctioned group that registers domain names in China froze registrations for new individual Web sites in December after state media complained that not enough was being done to check whether sites provided pornographic content.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that ban was being lifted, but would-be operators would now have submit their identity cards and photos of themselves as well as meet in person with regulators and representatives of service providers before their sites could be registered.

It said the rule was aimed at cracking down on pornography.

China has the world’s biggest online population, with 384 million Internet users. The government operates the world’s most extensive system of Web monitoring and filtering, blocking pornographic sites as well as those seen as subversive to communist rule.

ChinaZ.com, a community website for webmasters reported the photo requirement and process with the following actual photo:

Update: From LA Times:

“Internet security needs to be cured from its roots,” Li Yizhong, head of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, was quoted as saying in a state news article Sunday.

Critics say the new requirement has little to do with pornography and instead serves to increase controls and discourage web users from engaging in any activity that challenged the government.

For all its complexity, experts say the key to the government’s controls is not its filtering technology or registration requirements, but the willingness of individuals to censor themselves.

“This new measure comes as no surprise, since a key element of control has always been about how to use disciplinary punishment and surveillance to create a self-censorship environment,” said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at UC Berkeley. “The government feels increasingly insecure with their ability to control the Internet, therefore more and more policies and controlling practices are aimed at enhancing a self-policing environment.”