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China proposes foreign domain name censorship

A new draft law in China could potentially increase domain name restrictions, limiting domestic access to foreign websites.

The measures outlined in the ‘Internet Domain Name Management Rules’ (Chinese) remain unclear, yet suggest a marked effort to increase censorship on online content.

The proposals, released for public comment last week by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, seek to update existing regulations to censor any domain names not registered within China. Only domain names approved by authorities would be permitted, while other names registered outside of China would be blocked automatically.

Local Communist Party-backed paper Global Times noted that the rules are only necessary in the short term to ensure national security. The measures specifically detail that domain names must not ‘jeopardize national security,’ ‘leak state secrets,’ or ‘subvert state power, undermining national unity.’

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Those in violation of the new regulations could be fined up to 30,000 yuan (approx. £3,000).

The laws will most likely affect foreign tech firms, including U.S. giants Apple and Microsoft, which host services from Chinese servers.

China’s Great Firewall, currently blocks access to a list of foreign websites and internet services including Facebook, Google and the New York Times. However, this system could now become ineffective with domain name restrictions even redirecting traffic from ‘harmless’ sites.

The draft is open for public discussion until 25 April. Even if the measures do not pass this stage, their inclusion in the proposal emphasises the country’s determination to bring the internet under its control.

Last month the government issued regulations stipulating that foreign publishers wanting to reach a Chinese audience must set up servers in China, receive approval from the relevant authorities and acquire an online publishing license. The rules, which apply to news outlets, gaming companies and entertainment firms, require that foreign groups store all of their technical equipment, servers and storage devices, which host materials for a Chinese market, within China.

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