China takes action to calm public comments on Internet

China is strengthening its control over the Internet and social media, apparently as a result of the role new technologies have played this year in channeling public discontent around the world.

Asked about Internet censorship in China, a foreign ministry spokeswoman told reporters recently that the government regulates Internet use in China to safeguard the public interest. Efforts also are under way to intensify the state’s control over online social media and instant-messaging services to promote what is described as the orderly dissemination of information.

Chinese authorities have acted firmly in the past to try to prevent instant-communications techniques from influencing mass protests, but the rapid growth and quick adoption of such technologies by Chinese political activists is seen as a major challenge to Beijing’s efforts.

The Internet is having an impact on what issues are discussed and debated in Chinese society. Analysts say online information circulating rapidly among China’s 400 million Internet users has pushed public-interest issues into the national spotlight and influenced coverage decisions by state-controlled media.

Online news reports with video and photographic images deliver a powerful message within seconds around the world.

Beijing is known to employ tens of thousands of Internet censors to keep track of Internet reports and remove those the state finds offensive. Countless other Chinese are paid to post positive comments about the government on Internet message sites. Correspondents in China reports the latter are known as soldiers in the 50-cent army, after the amounts they reputedly are paid for posting pro-government messages.

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