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As Internet controls increase, Freedom House calls for urgent international response

(Freedom House/IFEX) - Washington, July 15, 2010 - The recent interruption of four major micro-blog services in China further highlights the Communist Party's intent to control the internet and 'plug holes' where political discussions it cannot control take place, according to Freedom House.

In recent days, reports have emerged of growing restrictions on the internet in China including: four major Twitter-like micro-blogging services providing only limited services due to "maintenance" or "testing" - often euphemisms for strengthening internal self-censorship systems following government pressure; restrictions on at least one Chinese micro-blogging platform being able to link to any overseas websites - including non political sites like Geico Insurance; and the shutdown of an estimated 60 plus blogs by prominent legal and political commentators.

"The Chinese authorities are quick, sophisticated, and strategic in their actions to control internet content. This means that the response from the international community has to be equally speedy and strategic," said Paula Schriefer, director of advocacy at Freedom House. "Internet freedom and free access to information are not simply luxuries but critical avenues for advancing democratic reforms and enabling the Chinese people to protect themselves and their families from threats such as tainted food or environmental pollution. It is more important than ever that the Obama Administration and other democratic governments support initiatives that will expand and protect internet freedom in China."

The People's Republic of China has the most sophisticated, multilayered internet control apparatus in the world. International services like Twitter and Facebook have been completely blocked for approximately a year. This comes on the heels of other steps taken throughout early 2010 as the ruling Communist Party and government agencies try to boost the effectiveness of internet controls, particularly over social networking websites, as well as increasing restrictions on anonymous posting.

"The Chinese Communist Party's attempts to control the internet affect much more than just its own citizens," said Robert Guerra, director of Freedom House's internet freedom project. "In addition to its domestic censorship practices, a growing number of sophisticated technical attacks are originating in China against organizations and companies outside of its borders."

China is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2010, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2009.

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