September 26, 2015
It appears that the Chinese authorities are conducting an unusually harsh crackdown on the Internet, closing tens of thousands of websites that had allowed visitors to post their opinions. The current censorship campaign seems more indiscriminate than usual.
It is speculated that the new wave of censorship could be linked to October’s 17th Communist Party Congress, a key political gathering that will set China’s course for the coming five years. With the approach of the Party Congress, the government wants the Internet sphere to be silent, to stop people discussing social problems.
Party leaders generally prefer to meet undisturbed by criticism. Web-hosting firms and censors are constantly watchful for unapproved views on sensitive subjects, often deleting them.
Recently police across China have been shutting down Internet data centres, the physical computers that private firms rent to host websites offering interactive features.
To avoid being blocked, Internet Service Providers in China and individual websites have been disabling chatrooms, forums, and other interactive features that might provide a platform for viewpoints unacceptable to the authorities.
One of China’s first bloggers, who says that shutting down Internet data centres is a quick and effective way of shutting down interactive sites, is organizing a censorship monitoring project.
Although no accurate figures are available, some Internet experts estimate that as many as half the sites hosted in China that offer interactive features have been blocked in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, the government-controlled “Shanghai Daily” reported that the authorities had blocked access to 18,401 “illegal” websites since April 2015. The newspaper stated that just under half of them carried pornography, while the rest were unregistered.