China to tighten hold on Internet, citing worries about nation's stability

In recent months, China has been cracking down on Internet users for spreading rumors

China is moving to tighten its grip over social networking services even more, citing possible threats to stability.

On Friday, Chinese authorities released a new blueprint for the country's future that covered economic and social reforms including loosening the nation's decades old one-child policy. But in the online space, the government showed no signs of shifting gears in its vast censorship of the Internet.

The government instead pointed to problems with its existing system to manage the flow of online information. Currently, there are too many different overseeing departments, resulting in inconsistencies and a lack of efficiency, the government said in a posting, explaining the reforms.

"At the same time, due to the rise of online media, the Internet regulatory systems that manage the media and the industry are falling far behind to catch up with the new changes," the post stated.

The government referred to the growing popularity of Chinese social networking and instant messaging tools as a major worry. The services can rapidly disseminate information and mobilize society, the posting said.

The authorities specifically mentioned Weixin, a mobile chatting app developed by local Internet giant Tencent. The app has taken China by storm, and boasts over 200 million monthly average users. Outside of the country, the app is better known as WeChat.

To make the Internet "more secure," China plans to bolster its regulatory systems, and increase the scope of their legal authority, the government said without offering further details.

China has already gained notoriety for its strict censorship of the Internet, and has blocked foreign sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Local social networking services, however, continue to operate, but self-censor content by sometimes deleting politically sensitive or anti-government posts.

Despite that, in recent months Chinese authorities have been cracking down on Internet users for allegedly fabricating rumors online. In September, China said it would hand out jail sentences to users found guilty.

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Tags governmentsocial mediaregulationinternetsocial networkingInternet-based applications and servicesGovernment of China

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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