User registration has been the backbone of China's recent Internet-control
strategies. Registration is intended to neutralize the safety
and freedom many users find in the anonymity of the Internet.
Students on university discussion sites must register using their
real names, and membership to these sites is heavily restricted.
Internet cafes, a common source of Internet access for people
who cannot afford a computer, are required to register the names
of their customers, who must present state-issued photo ID. The
cafes then record all user activity, and store the information
for 60 days. Some Internet cafes even have cameras to track customers
suspected of using counterfeit or stolen ID cards.
According to a study conducted by the OpenNet Initiative, China
employs the most advanced data filtering system in the world.
Any Web site featuring information critical of the government,
such as those of anti-communist movements or religious organizations,
is likely to be blocked.
American media Web sites like CNN and MSNBC are "generally
available," but the BBC, a British state-owned news network,
Many popular Web portals such as Google and Yahoo have Chinese
versions of their pages that voluntarily block certain searches
and omit results. Yahoo's Chinese division has even turned over
data to the Chinese government that was later used to convict
a journalist for discussing government media controls.
To date, according to Reporters Without Borders, 62 Chinese citizens
have been imprisoned for unlawful Internet activity.
is able to exert a much greater level of control over Web portals
run from within the country itself. These sites must obtain permission
from the government to provide news, and startups must register
with the government before they can go online. Offenders can be
fined $3,700 for violations, and may have their Web sites shut
China's new policy states that "news" includes "reports
and comments on political, economic, military, foreign policy
and other social public affairs." The term "reports
and comments" refers to virtually anything written in a chat
room, Web log, discussion group, or personal Web site.