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China's Internet industry is being urged to put its house in order to prevent the spread of anti-government information, porn and anything else that might threaten "national security (and) social stability".

Chinese websites, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other Internet-related organisations across the country are being "invited" to sign a self-discipline pact drawn up by the Beijing-based China Internet Association.

Those behind the pact hope it will protect online intellectual property rights, prevent cyber crime and the spread of "harmful information and unhealthy competition". It's designed to be a "self-disciplinary mechanism" that should "advance the healthy and orderly development of the Internet industry in China.

Once again, state authorities are concerned about how information on the Net could affect young people. As well as wanting to stamp out porn, "superstitious" content and any other "deleterious information", the authorities also want the industry to prevent the spread of computer viruses.

Although the pact appears to be voluntary, the report by state media outlet Xinhuanet doesn't say what will happen to Internet outfits that refuse to sign-up to the code.

Last month, the Chinese government announced plans to set up a special committee to review and censor online games. Games which break the constitution, threaten national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity will be banned, along with anything that threatens "state security, damaging the nation's glory, disturbing social order and infringing on other's legitimate rights".

A week ago Chinese cyber-dissident Du Daobin was sentenced to four years under house arrest after being convicted for posting pro-democracy articles on the Net. Du's trial lasted just 15 minutes, during which time he was not allowed to speak.

Du accepts that he posted 26 essays on democracy and respect for human rights, but he refused to admit that it was a crime or that he was guilty of subversion. ®

Related stories

Chinese cyber-dissident gets four years' house arrest
Chinese government censors online games
Chinese youths trash Internet cafe
China shuts 8,600 cybercafes

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