The number of websites in China almost halved last year, as increasing online censorship laws take their toll, according to new research. The report from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), a government think tank, found that there were 1.91 million websites at the end of last year, a 41% drop. The findings mark the first time that the number of websites in China has decreased, with some commentators linking the statistic to recent censorship laws coming into force.
However, the authors of the report at CASS said the number of websites had shrunk because of the economic downturn, and because of campaigns to stamp out internet pornography and spam.
“China has a very high level of freedom of online speech,” said Liu Ruisheng, one of the editors of the report. “There have been very few cases where websites were shut down in recent years purely to control speech.”
He said some websites had simply gone bankrupt, while others had been shut for not complying with regulations. “Some illegal websites were shut down during a clampdown on obscene content,” he added.
CASS also said that there was an increasing awareness of foreign countries trying to “infiltrate” China’s ideology through the internet, with broadcasters such as the BBC and Voice of America switching the focus of their Chinese services online.