Chinese Law Proposes Banning Web Domains and Increasing Censorship

The Chinese government introduced a draft law that would increase Internet censorship in the country. The proposed rules would allow the government to ban Web domains that are not approved by “local authorities.” This could include the extremely common “.com” and “.org” domains.

The regulations would allow only sites approved and supervised by the government. Providers would have to apply to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology for approval on these before the web addresses would be allowed. This increases the government’s ability to monitor and control Chinese Internet users.

If these rules are enacted, The government will only grant access to sites on a “white list,” as opposed to their current method of blacklisting specific sites to disallow. This change would greatly increase censorship, and cause even “harmless” websites to be blocked. The new laws expand on existing regulations put into place as early 2004.

Per a quote from Japan Times, “The domain name system will work in the background for your every single click on the browser while the Great Firewall blocks outside content,” Yip said. “If this trend continues, we can predict that the Chinese network will soon become a big Intranet, totally monitored by a network ‘big brother. The authority can block all domain name servers outside of China (the Great Firewall) and allow only domestic domain name servers to serve Chinese Internet users requests.”

The government is currently seeking feedback on the laws, which can be submitted through April 25. It’s not yet clear how they’d enforce this for domains outside of the country.

China has a long history of Internet censorship, and if enacted these new rules would tighten that grip. As a company dedicated to a free and open Internet, we are strongly opposed to censorship in China and elsewhere, and hope these draft laws are not enacted. You can read more about censorship in China here. Or read the full draft of the regulation.

Update: April 7, 2016 – It’s being reported that many Chinese citizens are taking advantage of the public comment period mentioned above, and expressing frustration with the increasing blocking of websites under the Great Firewall. This is notable, as it’s coming from those who “usually avoid confrontation.” Users are upset about the law’s proposal to block domains from outside China, as well as the increasing censorship overall.

Sources: Japan Times and Quartz and CBS News and Wall Street Journal