China cracks down in 'clean-up' of web services
The Chinese government is clamping down on internet services which get around strict controls - in a 14-month-long "clean-up" of the industry.
Virtual private networks (VPNs) or leased lines that allow users and businesses to access blocked overseas websites like Google and Facebook will be targeted.
There will be inspections of cloud-hosting and content-delivery services until March 2018 amid signs of "disorderly development", said the ministry of industry and information technology.
The new government measures are an attempt to strengthen its grip over the domestic internet and closely control what information China's 731 million online users can access.
Under the new directive, all internet service providers, data centres and content distribution networks must be licensed by the government.
They must also conduct "self-inspections" for any unlawful activity taking place on their servers, which would include those discreetly providing VPN services.
Chinese President Xi Jinping's administration has championed a vision of "internet sovereignty" where governments have the right to divide off their nation's cyberspace from unwanted elements like it was physical territory.
Image Caption: President Xi Jinping's administration has championed a vision of 'internet sovereignty'
The censors' reach has extended beyond websites.
Earlier this month, China's top internet regulator said it would regulate mobile app store offerings after finding some apps disseminated information it considered illegal or a danger to social stability.
The move came weeks after Apple removed apps by The New York Times from its app store in China following a government request.
Co-founder of anti-censorship group Greatfire.org, who uses the false name Charlie Smith, said it was unclear if the internet services industry would comply with China's orders to expose VPNs.
He said of the firms: "They will push back, quietly ... if they deem the cost of running these checks to be too high."
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