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China tightens grip on Web

Government orders blogs, sites to register or face being closed

SHANGHAI, China -- Authorities have ordered all China-based websites and blogs to register or be closed down, in the latest effort by the communist government to police cyberspace.

Commercial publishers and advertisers can be fined up to $120,000 for failing to register, according to the website of the Ministry of Information Industry.

Private, noncommercial bloggers and websites must register the complete identity of the person responsible for the site, it said. The ministry, which has set a June 30 deadline, said 74 percent of all sites had registered.

''The Internet has profited many people but it also has brought many problems, such as sex, violence and feudal superstitions and other harmful information that has seriously poisoned people's spirits," the ministry's website said in explaining the rules.

All public media in China are controlled by the state, though limits on the Internet have tended to lag behind as advances in technology and the Web's rapid spread outstripped Beijing's ability to keep tabs on users and service providers.

China has more than 87 million Internet users, the world's second-largest online population, after the United States.

The government has long required all major commercial websites to register and take responsibility for Internet content. At least 54 people have been jailed for posting essays or other content deemed subversive online.

The press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders protested the new rules, saying they would force people with dissenting opinions to shift websites overseas, where mainland Chinese users might be unable to access them due to government censorship filters.

The Paris-based group said that in May, many bloggers in China received e-mail messages telling them to register to avoid having their blogs declared illegal.

''Those who continue to publish under their real names on sites hosted in China will either have to avoid political subjects or just relay the Communist Party's propaganda," the rights group said.

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