China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology previewed a draft revision to existing Internet domain name management rules, the ambiguous language of which caused concern that it could effectively block the legal access of all foreign hosted sites. The MIIT today dismissed the alarm, telling Reuters that it was a “misunderstanding.” Paul Carsten and Michael Martina report:
The ministry told Reuters on Wednesday there was “misunderstanding” about the regulations which “did not fundamentally conflict” with global practices.
The rules “do not involve websites that are accessed overseas, do not affect users from accessing the related Internet content and do not affect the normal development of business for overseas companies in China,” it said in an email.
Authorities often issue preliminary laws and regulations for comment though it is not clear if regulators will incorporate public feedback in final drafting. The ministry said it would “earnestly study” feedback.
[…] China’s top Internet regulator, Lu Wei, has said the government is not being too restrictive [with its steady increasing of Internet control]. Officials say controls help maintain social stability and national security in the face of threats such as terrorism.
[…] But experts say the rules would enhance China’s ability to censor, and allow it to target sites that are hosted on Chinese servers but have registered their domain names overseas, where they cannot be completely shut down by Beijing. […] [Source]
At The Wall Street Journal, Josh Chin reports on remaining questions about the draft rules:
The ministry’s statement on Wednesday, however, didn’t clarify the key question of how network access is defined. An Internet researcher who participated in drafting the rules said they apply to websites and other online services that are hosted in China and specifically targeted at a Chinese audience.
That means global websites with domain names registered abroad wouldn’t be affected by the rules, he said. “No one in China will have trouble visiting whitehouse.gov. The White House will not have to submit network access information to the authorities, because it has nothing to do with China,” said the researcher, who didn’t want his name used because he wasn’t authorized to talk publicly about the new regulations.
Still, the rule could affect larger foreign companies that have or want to set up a website or other online service aimed at Chinese consumers, he said. Those companies would need to register a separate domain name with Chinese authorities and attach it to a website hosted inside China.
Such a scenario would dovetail with other Chinese government moves to bring more of the Internet under its direct control, a process it describes as data localization. Those include recent regulations that require foreign technology companies with business in China to store data on servers located inside the country. [Source]