China's tech firms back Beijing in controls on Internet

BEIJING Sun Nov 6, 2011 10:14am IST

A woman loads a Chinese microblog website on her Apple iPhone in Beijing, September 16, 2011.  REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

A woman loads a Chinese microblog website on her Apple iPhone in Beijing, September 16, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee/Files

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BEIJING (Reuters) - The heads of China's largest technology companies have endorsed Beijing's aim to intensify controls of online social media, pledging to "stop the spread of harmful information" on the Internet, state news agency Xinhua said on Sunday.

Some 10 top executives, including Sina Corp's Charles Chao, Baidu's Robin Li and Alibaba's Jack Ma, participated in the three-day discussion that ended on Saturday in Beijing hosted by the State Internet Information Office, one of the country's Internet regulators, Xinhua said.

China's Internet companies and Internet operators have "reached a common agreement" that they would "conscientiously safeguard the broadcasting of positive messages online," the report said.

"Resolutely curb the spread of rumours online, online pornography, Internet fraud and the illegal spread of harmful information on the Internet," the report said.

The meeting was presided over by Wang Chen, director of the State Council Information Office, the government's propaganda and information arm.

The Minister of Industry and Information Technology, Miao Wei, said Internet companies must increase their investment in "tracking surveillance".

In late October, Beijing vowed to strengthen Internet administration and promote content acceptable to the ruling party, according to a communique of a recent Communist Party party leadership conclave published in the official People's Daily.

The announcement from the Party meeting builds on a stream of warnings in state media that has shown Beijing is nervous about the booming microblogs, called "weibo" in Chinese, and their potential to tear the seams of censorship and controls.

China has repeatedly criticized microblogs for irresponsibility in spreading what it calls unfounded rumours, but analysts said the government is unlikely to shut down what has become an important valve for monitoring and easing social pressures.

The business impact is likely to be muted, because investors have already taken into account growing official scrutiny of Chinese Internet companies, analysts said.

Sina and other Chinese microblog operators already deploy technicians and software to monitor content and block and remove comment deemed unacceptable, especially about protests, official scandals and party leaders.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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