China to tighten internet control

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China is introducing strict regulations to control videos, podcasts and other audio-visual content on the internet, official media reported.

From next month, only state websites will be allowed to carry film or radio programs, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) said.

Providers will not be able to offer material containing sex, violence or gambling as well as anything against state interests or security or that threatens social morals.

The regulations are mainly targeted at the increasingly popular video-sharing websites.

China has about 150 million internet users and is soon to replace the US as the world's largest online market.

Beijing also bans videos and programs attacking the country's unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity - a move directed at independence movements in Tibet, Taiwan or Xinyiang.

The disclosure of "state secrets", which is very broadly defined in China, is also banned. All programs and films - including cartoons - will have to be approved beforehand by the relevant authorities.

Offending videos uploaded onto websites have to be deleted by the operator.

The new rules will put many private video providers in China out of business as only websites fully or for the most part in state ownership will be allowed to offer films and other audiovisual products.

It remained immediately unclear, what consequences the regulations would have for international providers such as YouTube, who operate their servers outside China, or the popular China-based website. YouTube has been repeatedly blocked in China in recent months.

The new controls reflect regulations already in force for other internet offers. China is already blocking many foreign sites, such as the site of British broadcaster BBC, the Chinese service of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (German Wave) or information provided by human rights organisations such as Amnesty International or Tibetan exiles' organisations.

Large international search engines such as Google or Yahoo self-censor in China as do their Chinese competitors. They do not display information critical of China to get their share Chinese internet market.




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