After a year of almost continuous campaigns against online content, it is fitting that 2009 should end with the possible introduction of a “white-list” system for the web in China.
The MIIT has announced new regulations for domain name registration which appear to require all websites to be registered and placed on a white-list.
“Domain names that have not registered will not be resolved or transferred,” the ministry said, in an announcement dated December 15 but not posted on its website until Sunday.
Officially, the new regulations are the latest in the government’s war on mobile porn, but as the Wall Street Journal puts it, this could “in effect [require] any site that wants to be viewable in China to apply for inclusion in a government-determined ‘white list’ of acceptable sites.”
“If some legal foreign websites could not be accessed because they haven't registered with MIIT, it would be a pity for the internet which is meant to connect the whole world,” the News was quoted by Reuters as saying.
At this stage, the intent of the MIIT decree is unclear. It is unlikely that the zealous but vaguely-worded paragraph was intended to shield Chinese citizens from the entire foreign-sourced internet.
However, its effect, coming at the end of a month-long campaign against mobile pornography, is already apparent.
According to a poll by Chinese news portal Sina.com, the “white-list system” is already “widespread” among data centers.
Data centers in more than ten provinces have been “severely impacted” by the closure of switches and network equipment. Since December 18, all non-government and telco-hosted data centres in Jiangxi have been cut off, while 56 data centers in Shanghai had been affected.
It said the practice of one hosting firm, im286.com, was to “shut first, investigate later”, turning off all servers and then switching them back on one by one as they are cleared.
In a recent interview on CCTV, MIIT boss Li Yizhong made similar remarks urging telecom regulators “not to be passive”. They should close down sites they “consider to contain mobile porn” and then report it to other agencies.
After a year of Green Dam, the complete shutdown of the internet in Xinjiang and the decision to stop individuals from registering domains in their own names, it fits.