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China tightens control over mobile Internet

PTI | Last Updated: Thursday, August 7, 2014 - 23:40

Beijing: In the cat-and-mouse game of free flow and control of information, China has made its move against the latest information-sharing technology.

China`s Internet Network Information Office today announced new rules on public accounts for instant messaging services, which say that only established media companies and news portals can release and repost political and social news.

Chinese authorities already have effective controls over media companies and the Internet. According to the information office, the latest rules are intended to ensure healthy and orderly growth in the new public communication tools.

Meanwhile, China has informed South Korea that it has blocked Kakao Talk and Line, two mobile messaging services popular among Asian smartphone users, on the ground that they were used to exchange terrorism-related information, according to a South Korean official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

The moves have been widely expected following Beijing`s harsh crackdown on microblogging services after their popularity caught authorities by surprise.
"Our information management does not allow for any blank space. It would be regulated later or sooner, and it is only a matter of time," said Hu Yong, professor with the School of Journalism and Communication at Peking University and an expert on the Internet.

Last summer, Beijing cracked down on microblogging services such as Sina Weibo, shushing influential and often liberal-minded microbloggers by closing some of their accounts and detaining bloggers on criminal charges of spreading rumors or unrelated offenses. The campaign was apparently aimed at stifling criticism of the government and the ruling Communist Party that briefly found an outlet on microblogging sites.
The crackdown helped give rise to the mobile messaging service WeChat, which allows individuals to set up public accounts that others can subscribe to, similar to the microblogging feature of having followers but without a word limit.

Journalists and scholars have since set up accounts and attracted sizeable followings on WeChat, operated by the Chinese technology company Tencent Inc., so have savvy businesses seeking to connect with potential customers on the new platform.

First Published: Thursday, August 7, 2014 - 23:40

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