In what is being described by Chinese government officials as a means of tackling online pornography, individual domain name registrants are now able to register domain names, but are being forced to meet regulators and produce identity documents. Online activists are describing the new requirements as added censorship for Chinese internet users.
An earlier freeze on individuals registering domain names in December came about after state media complained not enough was being done to combat online pornography.
The new “trial regulations”, dated 8 February and expected to be in place by late March, have been issued by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will not only help in the supposed online porn problem, but will allow the government to keep a tighter rein on who registers what domain names and creates what websites. Applicants are required to provide a description of the proposed website’s content, meet with their internet service provider who will be required to take and keep a photograph of the applicant, among other requirements. Following this, applications will be sent to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology for review.
“This new measure comes as no surprise, since a key element of control has always been about how to use disciplinary punishment and surveillance to create a self-censorship environment,” said Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet Project at UC Berkeley, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “The government feels increasingly insecure with their ability to control the Internet, therefore more and more policies and controlling practices are aimed at enhancing a self-policing environment.”
As a result of the new requirements there are reports many domain name holders and website operators are moving to non-Chinese (.CN) domain names and webhosts.
China has the most internet users of any country with around 384 million and around 14 million registered .CN domain names.