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China worst abuser of internet freedom third year running

Freedom House lists slew of new codified restrictions and rules targeting users and firms

Updated: November 16, 2017 07:14 AM GMT
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China worst abuser of internet freedom third year running

A man uses a computer at an internet cafe in Beijing in this June 1 photo. Freedom House has named China as the worst abuser of internet freedoms for a third straight year after Beijing codified a slew of restrictions on internet users and firms this year. (Photo by Greg Baker/AFP)

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China was the worst abuser of internet freedom for a third year running in 2017, according to Freedom House, a US-based freedom-of-speech watchdog, in its annual report.

As the ruling Communist Party held its 19th Party Congress, the government began turning many of its censorship strategies into law, its report on China said.

"The drive to codify what were previously ad hoc censorship and surveillance strategies persisted during the coverage period," the report said.

Other restrictions prevent websites from republishing “unverified” news from social media, the report added.

Websites the government has not licensed are barred from providing any online news or information service, the report said.

Meanwhile, a cybersecurity law introduced in November last year forces many internet users to register for services with their real names, in preparation for a "social credit" scoring system that could link people's online behavior to their access to jobs and services, Radio Free Asia reported, citing the report.

"The cybersecurity law also requires foreign companies to store data on Chinese users within China by 2018, and many — including Uber, Evernote, LinkedIn, Apple, and AirBnb — have started to comply," the report said.

It said social media users were also prosecuted for sharing sensitive news, with prison terms ranging from five days to 11 years.

Smartphone chat apps like WeChat were being increasingly targeted, with some people detained for comments they shared on the platform.

New regulations also sought to limit user-generated news content, meaning that social media users who tweet photos and other information from the scene of breaking news events could be arrested.

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