Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

US consumers likely to lose privacy protections for their web browsing history

March 29, 2017

Congress voted to kill rules meant to prevent internet service providers from selling users’ web browsing histories and app storage histories to advertisers

By Olivia Solon

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Without these protections, ISPs are free to track your browsing behavior and sell that data to advertisers without consent. Photograph: Tolga Bozoglu/EPA

US politicians voted Tuesday to kill privacy rules meant to prevent internet service providers (ISPs) from selling users’ web browsing histories and app usage histories to advertisers.

The planned protections, proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and scheduled to take effect by the end of 2017, would have forced ISPs to get people’s consent before hawking their data.

Republicans in the House of Representatives followed their colleagues in the Senate with a vote – of 215 to 205 – to approve a resolution that uses the Congressional Review Act to prevent the privacy rules from taking effect.

Without these protections, ISPs such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T are free to track your browsing behavior and sell that data to advertisers without consent. This represents a huge treasure trove of personal data, including your health concerns, shopping habits and visits to porn sites. ISPs can find out where you bank, your political views and sexual orientation simply based on the websites you visit. The fact that you’re looking at a website at all can also reveal when you’re at home and when you’re not.

“Give me one good reason why Comcast should know what my mother’s medical problems are,” said congressman Mike Capuano during the hearing before the vote, explaining how he had researched her condition after a trip to the doctor. “Just last week I bought underwear on the internet. Why should you know what size I take? Or the color?”

“Consumers should be in control of their own information,” added congressman Jared Polis. “They shouldn’t be forced to sell it to who knows who simply for the price of admission to access the internet.”

Others argued that repealing the privacy rules would be anti-competitive and give more power to a handful of companies.

Democrat Ro Khanna pointed out that Americans already pay much more for broadband than Europeans thanks to “monopolistic, anti-competitive practices”.

“Instead of making the industry more competitive, what this bill wants to do is give these four or five ISPs even more power,” he said.

“These companies are not going broke,” Capuano added. “The internet is not in jeopardy.”

Those in favor of repealing the privacy rules argued that it levels the playing field for internet service providers who want to get into the advertising business like Google and Facebook. According to ISPs, scrapping the rules will allow them to show the user more relevant advertising and offers, which would give the companies better return on the investment they have made in infrastructure. They argue that web browsing history and app usage should not count as “sensitive” information.

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House votes to wipe away the FCC’s internet privacy protections which could lead to Internet providers being allowed to sell customer information

March 29, 2017

  • The House voted 215-205 Tuesday to reject a rule that would have given more control to consumers over how internet service providers share information
  • However, 15 Republicans sided with Democrats to keep the rule in place
  • Trump-appointed FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, wanted to roll back the broadband privacy rules

The House voted Tuesday to block online privacy regulations issued during the final months of the Obama administration, a first step toward allowing internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to sell the browsing habits of their customers.

The Federal Communications Commission rule was designed to give consumers greater control over how internet service providers share information.

But critics said the rule would have added costs, stifled innovation and picked winners and losers among Internet companies.

Ajit Pai, Trump-appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is a critic of the broadband privacy rules

Ajit Pai, Trump-appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is a critic of the broadband privacy rules

The House voted 215-205 to reject the rule, and sent the legislation to President Donald Trump for his signature. The vote is part of an extensive effort that Republicans have undertaken to void an array of regulations issued during the final months of Democratic President’s tenure. But the vote was closer this time than previous rescind efforts, with 15 Republicans siding with Democrats in the effort to keep the rule in place.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the Republican-led effort was about putting profits over the privacy concerns of Americans.

‘Overwhelmingly, the American people do not agree with Republicans that this information should be sold, and it certainly should not be sold without your permission,’ Pelosi said. ‘Our broadband providers know deeply personal information about us and our families.’

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi advocated for this rule to be upheld for privacy concerns

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi advocated for this rule to be upheld for privacy concerns

Internet companies like Google don’t have to ask users’ permission before tracking what sites they visit. Republicans and industry groups have blasted that discrepancy, saying it was unfair and confusing for consumers.

But proponents of the privacy measure argued that the company that sells you your internet connection can see even more about consumers, such as every website they visit and whom they exchange emails with.

Undoing the FCC regulation leaves people’s online information in a murky area. Experts say federal law still requires broadband providers to protect customer information – but it doesn’t spell out how or what companies must do. That’s what the FCC rule aimed to do.

The Trump-appointed chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, is a critic of the broadband privacy rules and has said he wants to roll them back. He and other Republicans want a different federal agency, the Federal Trade Commission, to police privacy for both broadband companies like AT&T and internet companies like Google. GOP lawmakers said they cared about consumer privacy every bit as much as Democrats did.

The House voted 215-205 to reject the rule which is designed  to give consumers greater control over how internet service providers share information

The House voted 215-205 to reject the rule which is designed  to give consumers greater control over how internet service providers share information

‘What America needs is one standard across the internet ecosystem and the Federal Trade Commission is the best place for that standard,’ said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.

Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said the FTC has acted as America’s online privacy regulator since the dawn of the internet. He called the rule an effort to strip the agency of that role.

‘The internet has become the amazing tool that it is because it is largely left untouched by regulation – and that shouldn’t stop now,’ McCarthy said.

Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas parted ways with his Republican colleagues on the issue. He said the privacy protections were ‘commonsense measures’ that would have ensured internet users continue to have control over their personal information.

‘We don’t want the government having access to our information without our consent, and the same goes for private business,’ Yoder said.

Broadband providers don’t currently fall under FTC jurisdiction, and advocates say the FTC has historically been a weaker agency than the FCC.

The American Civil Liberties Union urged Trump to veto the resolution, appealing to his populist side.

‘President Trump now has the opportunity to veto this resolution and show he is not just a president for CEOs but for all Americans,’ said the ACLU’s Neema Singh Guliani.

Republicans repeatedly discounted the privacy benefits generated by the rule. Over the last two months, they’ve voted to repeal more than a dozen Obama-era regulations in the name of curbing government overreach. The criticism of their efforts was particularly harsh Tuesday.

‘Lawmakers who voted in favor of this bill just sold out the American people to special interests,’ said Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo.

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Singapore: New Smart Nation and Digital Government Office to be formed on May 1

March 20, 2017

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21 Mar 2017 00:18

SINGAPORE: Staff from digital and technology teams in several ministries will form a new office in charge of digital transformation in the public service on May 1, the Prime Minister’s Office announced on Monday (Mar 20).

The Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO), to be formed under the Prime Minister’s Office, will comprise staff from the Ministry of Finance’s Digital Government Directorate, the Ministry of Communications and Information’s Government Technology Policy department and the Smart Nation Programme Office.

The Government Technology Agency (GovTech) will also be placed under the Prime Minister’s Office as the implementing agency of SNDGO.

Together, GovTech and SNDGO will form the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG).

The SNDGG’s responsibilities include driving digital transformation for the public service to strengthen the Government’s information and communications technology infrastructure and improve public service delivery.

The group will lead the development of a national digital identity framework to facilitate digital transactions as well as a national platform to support Government agencies’ use of Internet of Things applications, which link physical items such as cars, health devices and home appliances to the Internet.

It will work with other Government agencies, industries and the public to apply technologies to improve Singaporeans’ lives in areas such as urban mobility, the Prime Minister’s Office said. For example, the SNDGG will work with the Land Transport Authority on technologies to improve public transport, enhance urban logistics and reduce congestion.

It will also build on ongoing work by GovTech to enhance data sharing through the portal and collaborate with the Monetary Authority of Singapore to promote e-payments.


Permanent Secretary of Defence Development in the Ministry of Defence Ng Chee Khern will concurrently lead the SNDGG as Permanent Secretary from May 1.

The SNDGG will be overseen by a ministerial committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean. Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim will be the deputy chairman. Other committee members include Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Higher Education and Skills Ong Ye Kung – who has been appointed to champion public service innovation – and Minister of State for Communications and Information and Education Janil Puthucheary, who will be the Minister-in-charge of GovTech.

Mr Ng will also retain his appointment as chairman of the GovTech Board, which will oversee GovTech’s operations and guide the agency’s efforts to support Smart Nation and digital government, the Prime Minister’s Office said.


Dr Balakrishnan said the reorganisation will put the Smart Nation’s master planning, policy and implementation together and “turbo-charge” the Government’s efforts towards this goal.

“This is not really a technical or technological issue per se. It requires a change in mindset, a change in relationships, the way we work together as a whole of Singapore,” he said.

For example, it requires a whole-of-Government effort to put together a common platform for e-payments, along with the cooperation of the whole private sector as well as banking and financial institutions, Dr Balakrishnan said.

Dr Puthucheary also said efforts to improve the way the Government is run will not work as well as desired without “excellent people”.

“A big part of what we want to do is to build a deep engineering talent in Singapore, bringing more people into engineering, into ICT engineering, cyber security engineering, data analysis, whether they’re here in Singapore or Singaporeans residing overseas.”

He added that there are many talented Singaporeans working in these fields overseas. “We’re hoping we can attract people back into Singapore to build that engineering team here.”

Vietnam urges firms to stop YouTube and Facebook ads in protest over ‘fake content’ — Critisism from human rights groups and anti-communist posting embarrass Hanoi

March 16, 2017


By My Pham | HANOI

Vietnam on Thursday called on all companies doing business there to stop advertising on YouTube, Facebook and other social media until they find a way to halt the publication of “toxic” anti-government information.

At a meeting with the information and communication minister, companies including the local operations of Unilever, Ford and Yamaha Motor all committed to obey the call to suspend YouTube advertising.

Last month, the communist country began putting pressure on advertisers to try to get YouTube owner Google and other companies to remove content from foreign-based dissidents.

But Information and Communication Minister Truong Minh Tuan said the response had not yet been good enough. Although there were 8,000 anti-government videos on YouTube, Google had only blocked 42 and hadn’t removed them completely, the ministry said.

“Today we call on all Vietnamese firms that are advertising not to abet them to take advertising money from firms to use against the Vietnamese government,” Tuan told companies at a meeting in Hanoi.

“We also call on all internet users to raise their voice to Google and Facebook to prevent toxic, fake content violating Vietnamese law in the online environment.”

YouTube reiterated its global policy of thoroughly reviewing government requests to block content they believe is illegal and restricting it where appropriate. Facebook gave no immediate response.

The Asia Internet Coalition, an industry association which includes both companies, said Vietnam and its businesses benefited greatly from the internet.

“It is critical for the Vietnamese government to protect the open nature of the internet, and put in place the right conditions that incentivize investment and nurture innovation,” said Jeff Paine, the group’s managing director.

For governments to complain to Google and Facebook about content published online is not new, but industry officials said there was less precedent for a state to try to put pressure on them through their advertisers.

Vietnam’s state-owned Vinamilk, and flag carrier Vietnam Airlines suspended YouTube ads last month after the government told them their ads had appeared alongside inappropriate content.

Because of the computer-directed processes that pair adverts with their targeted audiences on social media, companies are not always aware of or have direct control over which specific videos an advert has been placed alongside.

Vietnam has come under fire from Western countries and human rights groups for its Decree 72 on social media – which bans information that it deems anti-government, damaging to national security or destroying national unity.

Despite the restrictions, content that ostensibly breaches the code’s standards is still prolific.

While Vietnam makes up a very small part of the business operations of companies like Google and Facebook, it is one of Asia’s fastest growing economies and a hot investment target for global consumer brands.

Within Vietnam itself, YouTube and Facebook account for two-thirds of digital media market share in Vietnam, according to Nguyen Khoa Hong Thanh, Operations Director at digital marketing agency Isobar Vietnam.

(Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Nick Macfie)

China admits political education for students is poor

March 12, 2017


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China is doing a poor job at political education for university students because the classes are outdated and unfashionable, the education minister said on Sunday in a rare admission of the difficulties faced enforcing a key government policy.

Beijing has campaigned against the spread of “Western values” at universities, and the ruling Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog last year sent inspectors to monitor teachers for “improper” remarks in class.

In December, President Xi Jinping called for allegiance to the party from colleges and universities, the latest effort by China to tighten its hold on education.

Speaking on the sidelines of the annual meeting of parliament, Education Minister Chen Baosheng said Xi had made “important comments” on political education for students in December, but that there were problems on the ground.

“When we go and investigate at colleges and universities, attention levels at thought and political theory classes are not high. People are there in body but not in spirit,” Chen said.

“Why is this? The contents do not suit their needs. Perhaps mainly the formula is rather outdated, the tools are rather crude and the packaging is not that fashionable,” he added.

Students need to be led by the core values of Chinese socialism to ensure their healthy moral growth, and they should also study traditional Chinese culture, revolutionary culture and “advanced socialist culture”, Chen said.

That is the best way to get students ready to shoulder their responsibilities to society, he added.

Crackdowns on what academics and students can say and should think are nothing new in China.

Curriculums and speech at universities, in particular, are tightly controlled by the government, fearful of a repeat of the pro-democracy protests in 1989 that were led by students.

In 2013, a liberal Chinese economist who had been an outspoken critic of the party was expelled from the elite Peking University.

A year later, the university, once a bastion of free speech in China, established a 24-hour system to monitor public opinion on the internet and take early measures to control and reduce negative speech, according to a party journal at the time.

China aims to build world-class universities and some of its top schools fair well in international rankings by various standards. However, critics argue constraints on academic freedom could inhibit those ambitions.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)


Ideological education stressed for Chinese college students

Updated: 2010-05-31

BEIJING – A senior Communist Party of China (CPC) official has urged greater effort to promote the ideological education of the nation’s college students.

Ideological education stressed for Chinese college students

Li Changchun (L), member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, shakes hands with a participant before a meeting on the ideological education of college students in Beijing, China, May 29, 2010. [Photo/Xinhua]

“Continuous efforts should be made to boost college students’ ideological thought to nurture qualified successors for the construction of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” said Li Changchun, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.

Li made the remarks at a two-day meeting on the ideological education of college students, held in Beijing on Saturday and Sunday.

Li said although college students’ ideological education has achieved good results in recent years, it is still not meeting the needs of the nation, the Party and the expectations of the people and the needs of achieving the healthy development of the students.

He urged universities to create a sound environment for students’ healthy growth and to keep ideological education close to reality, life and the students.

UN expert urges states to work toward cyber surveillance treaty

March 8, 2017


By Tom Miles | GENEVA

The world needs an international treaty to protect people’s privacy from unfettered cybersurveillance, which is being pushed by populist politicians preying on fear of terrorism, according to a U.N. report debated on Wednesday.

The report, submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council by the U.N. independent expert on privacy, Joe Cannataci, said traditional privacy safeguards such as rules on phone tapping were outdated in the digital age.

“It’s time to start reclaiming cyberspace from the menace of over-surveillance,” Cannataci told the Council.

With governments worldwide demanding data from firms such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple and Twitter, it did not make sense to rely entirely on U.S. legal safeguards, and creating an “international warrant” for data access or surveillance would unify global standards, he said.

“What the world needs is not more state-sponsored shenanigans on the Internet but rational, civilized agreement about appropriate state behavior in cyberspace,” the report said. “This is not utopia. This is cold, stark reality.”

Cannataci was appointed as the first “Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy” in 2015, following the uproar caused by revelations by Edward Snowden, a former U.S. security contractor who once worked at the U.S. mission in Geneva.

His report was submitted last week, before the latest publication by anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks of what it said were thousands of pages of internal CIA discussions of hacking techniques of smartphones and other gadgets.

The United States did not react to Cannataci’s report, but many countries welcomed it and agreed that online privacy standards should be as strong as offline standards.

China’s diplomat at the Council said rapid technological advances and the “drastic increase worldwide in the violation of privacy” made it urgent to enhance protection, while Russia’s representative said Cannataci’s report was “extremely topical”.

Venezuela, Iran and Cuba all welcomed Cannataci’s work and criticized international surveillance.

A draft legal text was being debated by activists and “some of the larger international corporations” and was expected to be published within a year, Cannataci said.

In his report, he criticized populist laws that intruded on privacy in the name of fighting terrorism.

He said such sweeping but unproven powers were largely based on fear, and said that their lack of proportionality should be tested in ways similar to those used by a U.S. federal judge when he assessed President Donald Trump’s proposed restrictions on migrants from Muslim-majority countries.

“The level of the fear prevents the electorate from objectively assessing the effectiveness of the privacy-intrusive measures proposed,” he wrote.

“Trying to appear tough on security by legitimizing largely useless, hugely expensive and totally disproportionate measures which are intrusive on so many people’s privacy – and other rights – is patently not the way governments should go.”

(This stpry corrects paragraph 13 to remove implication of a direct comparison to Trump’s travel ban)

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Alison Williams)

Are the U.S. and China headed for a ‘hot war’ on trade? — Sentiment for deglobalization trend and protectionism are growing

March 7, 2017

Antitrade forces in White House, Chinese mercantilism set stage for titanic tug-of-war

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Trucks transport containers in the Chinese port of Tianjin. As Beijing doubles down on growth and anitrade forces gather in Washington, the stage is set for a divisive tug-of-war on trade. PHOTO: ZUMA PRESS

Updated March 7, 2017 5:50 a.m. ET

SHANGHAI—China’s stunning advance as an industrial power has no historical precedent: Its share of global manufacturing rocketed from 3% in 1990 to around one-quarter today. The disruptive shock helped deliver Donald Trump to the Oval Office on a barrage of protectionism rhetoric.

The question now is whether it will splinter the U.S.-led global trading system.

Mr. Trump’s threatened tariffs have failed to materialize. Nor has he declared China a currency manipulator, another campaign pledge.

Still, global markets may be underestimating both the antitrade forces gathering in the White House, and the hardening of Chinese mercantilism.

On Sunday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang warned in his annual “work report” to the National People’s Congress that “the deglobalization trend and protectionism are growing.” Yet, he offered little new thinking from Beijing on a way forward.

Market reforms are on hold ahead of a key Communist party gathering at the end of the year that President Xi Jinping hopes will crown his power. To serve that purpose, state aggrandizement remains the overarching goal of economic policy-making.

That means growth is China’s priority. Beijing is doubling down on a zero-sum strategy that has flooded global markets with surplus steel, aluminum, cargo ships, paper and glass.

The stage is set for a titanic tug of war over trade that clouds the future of the World Trade Organization itself.

The trade hawks in Mr. Trump’s administration are seized with a common conviction: that China’s 2001 entry into the global trading body was a catastrophe for the U.S. economy.

In their telling of the story, China cheated its way into U.S. markets under WTO cover, laying waste to American jobs and prosperity as its bilateral trade surplus exploded by 300%.

Peter Navarro, the White House industry guru and a former economics professor, has called this “one of the great obscenities in global economic history.” In a speech on Monday he raised the specter of a “cold war” and even a “hot war” against an unnamed power buying up “our companies, our technologies, our farmland and our food supply chain, and ultimately controlling much of our defense-industrial base.”

Mr. Navarro and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross claimed in a paper last year that eliminating the $500 billion U.S. trade deficit—the bulk of it with China—would add to growth, create millions of jobs and generate trillions of dollars in revenue to pay for tax cuts. A dollar saved on trade is a dollar gained in GDP, they argued.

Many orthodox economists deride this theory. Larry Summers, the former U.S. Treasury secretary, called it “voodoo economics.” There is no consensus on whether trade deficits are good or bad (they tend to swell when the U.S. economy is doing well, and shrink when it’s ailing). And the theory glosses over other challenges to U.S. factory jobs, like the self-inflicted financial crisis of 2008 and the march of automation.

Besides, U.S. manufacturing output is at, or close to, record levels.

Yet China has brought on this fight. Its wholesale theft of intellectual property, requirements forcing foreign investors to disgorge their technology, and a digital “Great Firewall” that blocks most of the world’s top internet sites, have provided ample ammunition to White House trade warriors. The latest survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China showed that more than 80% of its members felt less welcome in the country.

Meanwhile, armed with a half-trillion-dollar war chest, China is shopping for U.S. and European tech companies to build advanced manufacturing capabilities that it will foster in its own protected markets—and then unleash on open economies in the West.

China is rightly worried about a U.S. response. “I’m seriously preparing for a trade war,” a former commerce minister, Chen Deming, told reporters in Beijing this week, according to a Bloomberg report.

Last week, the Trump administration opened hostilities in a policy paper that threatened to bypass the WTO in handling disputes, a dramatic departure that, if implemented, would risk triggering a global free-for-all and undermining much of the organization’s raison d’être.

Trade has traditionally supplied the ballast to U.S.-China ties, now at their lowest point in decades. Without a comprehensive settlement, the relationship could run aground. That would strike at both Mr. Xi’s “China Dream” of national rejuvenation and Mr. Trump’s campaign to “Make America Great Again.” Nobody wins in a trade war.

To the dismay of Asian governments fearful of conflict between the world’s two largest economies, Mr. Trump has ditched the most promising framework for a grand bargain—the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which covers some of the touchiest areas of U.S.-China trade such as the role of state enterprises, intellectual property and labor standards.

China was never included in that arrangement, although it didn’t rule out membership. Beijing is now rushing to fill the vacuum by promoting its own, lower-quality trade agreement with its neighbors.

Charlene Barshefsky, the former U.S. trade representative who negotiated China’s entry into the WTO, argued at recent public forum that TPP “should be fixed, not jettisoned.”

She added: “Miscalculation is too costly for both sides—and the world.”

Write to Andrew Browne at

Beijing pushes ‘China solution’ for governing web

March 2, 2017


© AFP/File | China has maintained that its various forms of web censorship — collectively known as “The Great Firewall” — are necessary for protecting its national security

 BEIJING (AFP) – Beijing said Thursday it will push a “China solution” to global cyber governance after releasing its first strategy paper outlining a vision of the web where individual countries control the information that flows across their borders.

The roll out is part of an effort by Beijing to play a more active role in shaping the management of the internet, advocating what some critics have called a more atomised, less connected web.

Beijing wants “to put forward a ‘China scheme’ or a ‘China solution’ for the tough issue of cyber governance,” Long Zhou, the coordinator of cyber affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters at a briefing on the document, which was released late Wednesday.

While China is home to the world’s largest number of internet users, a 2015 report by US think tank Freedom House found that the country had the most restrictive online use policies of 65 nations it studied, ranking below Iran and Syria.

But China has maintained that its various forms of web censorship — collectively known as “The Great Firewall” — are necessary for protecting its national security.

Sites blocked due to their content or sensitivity, among them Facebook and Twitter, cannot be accessed in China without special software that allows users to bypass the strict controls.

This January, Beijing launched a campaign to crack down on such tools, known as virtual private networks (VPNs).

The campaign came after the passing of a controversial cybersecurity bill last November, tightening restrictions on online freedom of speech and imposing new rules on service providers.

China has “accumulated experience” in internet management and plans to share its lessons with other countries, Long said, including Russia, which is seeking to tighten its own controls over the web.

Long played down concerns about China’s internet management, saying its measures do not conflict with citizens’ rights and the free flow of information.

“There is no absolute freedom in this world,” Long said.

“Cyberspace may be virtual, but the people who use it are real, so cyberspace must not be beyond laws.”

Citing the UN Charter’s sovereignty principle, the strategy paper denounces cyber hegemony and interfering in other countries’ internal affairs.

“Maintaining the peace and stability of this world is a priority,” for web governance Long said, warning that cyberspace should not become a “new battlefield.”

When asked about cyber attacks on the United States that allegedly originated from China, Long countered that China has itself been a victim of hacking.

“Unlike some other people,” he said, “we have not described ourselves as a victim every day and finger-pointed other countries and other people every day.”


China Pushes Web Governance, Internet Sovereignty

March 2, 2017

BEIJING — Mar 2, 2017, 5:38 AM ET


China, which tightly censors the internet, called on Thursday for a new model for governing the web based on rules and order rather than the unfettered access seen in democratic societies.

Speaking in Beijing, foreign ministry and cyberspace affairs officials made China’s latest argument for being a global leader in managing the internet. Unveiling the country’s first cyber policy paper, they also stated that China would beef up its cyberwarfare capacities to defend against hacking and other foreign threats.

“Cyberattacks, cyber espionage, surveillance have become major issues confronting all countries,” said the coordinator for the foreign ministry’s cyber affairs division, Long Zhou.

China has long defended its right to impose own standards in cyber fields such as censorship, data privacy and business regulation in the name of national security. The new policy paper effectively codified the Communist Party leadership’s claim that countries should wield sovereign authority over all cyber-related matters within their territory.

Describing the internet as rife with subversive thought, religious extremism, pornography, fake news and financial scams, Long said China “stands ready to work together with Russia and BRICS partners,” as well as other countries on new governance measures.

BRICS is an organization of large emerging economies grouping Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. China is hosting its annual summit this year as part of efforts to elevate the group’s international status.

China made a major push for global internet leadership at a conference it hosted in 2015 in the eastern town of Wuzhen. In a keynote address, President Xi Jinping said that while there was the need to respect freedom of expression, the world also needed to “create a fine cyberspace order following relevant laws.”

The new policy paper emerges as the country’s leaders have talked up Beijing’s desire to be a world leader in economic globalization and diplomatic multilateralism, at a time with President Donald Trump is questioning trade agreements and pushing his own brand of American economic nationalism. China is seen as sensing an opportunity to bolster its influence and aggrandize its blend of authoritarian politics, strict social controls and limited free market economics.

The sovereignty argument has underpinned China’s justification for a massive internet censorship apparatus that critics say hampers free speech and open trade. Chinese officials have evangelized the concept at international forums in recent years, arguing that developing countries should join Beijing in demanding a greater say over global internet governance, which is currently dominated by the United States and liberal Western thinking.

Beijing’s sophisticated censorship tool, known as the “Great Firewall,” blocks a slew of foreign news sites and social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The government has broadened police powers to collect personal data for law enforcement and online discussion of sensitive topics such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown is quickly squelched by the censors.

The officials on Thursday extended an invitation to the international community, saying that China, with the world’s largest online population and advanced technology, was willing to share its “wisdom, experience and resources” in governing the internet with other countries. They said developing nations were especially welcome to study the Chinese model, but that Beijing would not impose its values on countries with different traditions, cultural and national circumstances.

“Every country needs to decide on the balance between freedom and order and we have to respect how each country reaches that decision,” Long said.

The officials also warned that China’s military would continue to beef up its cyber warfare capabilities as “an important part of military modernization,” although they said that China did not believe that an arms race was conducive to world peace.

Long urged other countries to maintain mutual respect and dialogue rather than “engaging in confrontation” — in an apparent rebuttal of accusations of state-backed hacking frequently leveled at China.

The U.S. government has publicly aired its frustration with Chinese hacking in the past and has indicted five Chinese military hackers for espionage in 2014.


China warns against cyber ‘battlefield’ in internet strategy

March 2, 2017

The strengthening of cyber capabilities is an important part of China’s military modernization, the government said on Wednesday, warning that the internet should not become “a new battlefield”.

China, home to the largest number of internet users, has long called for greater cooperation among countries in developing and governing the internet, while reiterating the need to respect “cyber sovereignty”.

But Beijing, which operates the world’s most sophisticated online censorship mechanism known elsewhere as the “Great Firewall”, has also signaled that it wants to rectify “imbalances” in the way standards across cyberspace are set.

“The building of national defense cyberspace capabilities is an important part of China’s military modernization,” the Foreign Ministry and the Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s internet regulator, said in a strategy paper on the ministry’s website.

China will help the military in its important role of “safeguarding national cyberspace sovereignty, security and development interests” and “hasten the building of cyberspace capabilities”, they said, but also called on countries to “guard against cyberspace becoming a new battlefield”.

Countries should not engage in internet activities that harm nations’ security, interfere in their internal affairs, and “should not engage in cyber hegemony”.

“Enhancing deterrence, pursing absolute security and engaging in a (cyber) arms race – this is a road to nowhere,” Long Zhao, the Foreign Ministry’s coordinator of cyberspace affairs, said at a briefing on the strategy.

“China is deeply worried by the increase of cyber attacks around the world,” Long said.

The United States has accused China’s government and military of cyber attacks on U.S. government computer systems. China denies the accusations and says it is a victim of hacking.

A cyber attack from China crashed the website of South Korea’s Lotte Duty Free on Thursday, a company official said, at a time when South Korean firms are reporting difficulties in China following the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea that China objects to.

While China’s influence in global technology has grown, its ruling Communist Party led by President Xi Jinping has presided over broader and more vigorous efforts to control and censor the flow of information online.

The “Great Firewall” blocks many social media services, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Google, along with sites run by human rights groups and those of some foreign media agencies.

Chinese officials say the country’s internet is thriving and controls are needed for security and stability.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and Catherine Cadell; Editing by Nick Macfie)