Controls to tighten Chinese online activity

Online gambling among “undesirable” pastimes

The Chinese government is about to tighten the internet screws on activities that it deems to be undesirable – including online gambling – in a new initiative to tighten controls, reports Associated Press.

The new initiative will target any online information from "overseas hostile forces", a government spokesman said in comments this week.

The move is part of efforts to step up a crackdown on online smut, gambling, fraud and other offenses, said Wang Chen, chief of the Cabinet's Information Office.

"We will strengthen the blocking of harmful information from outside China to prevent harmful information from being disseminated in China and withstand online penetration by overseas hostile forces," Wang was quoted as saying.

Associated Press says that Beijing encourages Internet use for business and education but tries to block material deemed subversive or pornographic and operates an extensive system of Web monitoring and censorship.

Regulators block access to websites abroad run by political and human rights activists and some news organisations. The Chinese approach caused the U.S.-based Google Inc. to move its China-based search engine to Hong Kong last month after announcing it no longer wanted to cooperate with Chinese online censorship.

China's population of Internet users, already by far the world's largest, has surpassed 400 million, with 233 million users getting access through mobile phones, according to weekend reports by state media, also citing Wang.

Last Thursday, China strengthened a law that requires telecommunications and internet companies to inform on customers who discuss state secrets - an area so broadly defined that both companies and Chinese citizens have struggled to know just what a state secret is.

In February, the government announced that individuals who want to operate websites must meet in person with regulators and submit photos of themselves.

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