China Starts New Bureau to Curb Web

The New York Times breaks news of a new bureau quietly launched by the Chinese government to oversee social networking websites:

The new bureau marks the latest outgrowth to a morass of agencies tasked with regulating online business and communications in China. People informed of the expansion say the authorities are retooling their media apparatus to deepen their leverage over the Web, and regulators are jostling for the growing power and prestige at stake.

The new agency, officially called the Internet news coordination bureau, is part of this effort to better monitor the communications of Chinese Web users, who total nearly 400 million by official estimates.

…For weeks, the head of the newly established bureau has represented it in meetings with foreign diplomats and in official propaganda conferences and training sessions in cities like Shanghai.

But public acknowledgment of the addition only came last week, after The New York Times submitted a question about the overhaul. The next day, the Information Office altered a page on its Web site to reflect the new Internet bureau. It also unveiled another new bureau, devoted to regulating foreign news and information outlets that conduct business in China.