China tells internet companies they need to toe the line

14 Jan 2010

China, it seems, has no intention of backing down after global internet giant Google threatened to pull out of the country over alleged cyber attacks. The Chinese Government has told all internet companies in the country they need to work within Chinese laws.

Google said it was considering pulling out of China after experiencing a flurry of alleged cyber attacks on its servers from attackers originating in China.

Google’s chief legal officer David Drummond said that this resulted in the theft of some intellectual property. He said the hackers tried to access the Gmail accounts of notable human-rights activists, resulting in two accounts being affected, but they only managed to access subject line and date information.

China’s response

However, in a statement on the State Council Information Office website, cabinet spokesman Wang Chen said that China itself was a victim of hacker attacks and that Beijing was resolutely against hacking.

He warned against pornography, cyber attacks and online fraud, and said that internet companies operating in China had a major responsibility to help the Chinese government maintain social stability and harmony by guiding public opinion correctly.

According to web analytics company StatCounter, at the end of 2009, Baidu held 56pc of the Chinese market compared to Google’s 43pc.

Over the past year, China has intensified its efforts to curb internet freedom and the latest threat by Google to exit the country highlights how antagonistic things have become.

Foreign content restriction

In the past year, China’s system for restricting foreign content – dubbed the Great Fire Wall – has been raised to block sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as YouTube. This is in addition to pressure being put on ISPs to reveal information as well as the arrest of journalists and free-speech campaigners.

Last June, the Chinese Government also attempted to install ‘Green Dam’ censorship software on every computer in the country that would deny access to sites with pornographic content or content deemed politically sensitive.

It has been reported that China has more than 30,000 or more “internet police” or researchers who monitor web traffic.

Almost 340 million people in China are now online, compared with 10 million only a decade ago.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years