China’s ordering bars, cafes and other places offering free Wifi access to monitor their customers’ online activities, according to state media.
They’ve been ordered to install software that captures all the websites visited by a user and sends the information to local public security bureaux – and they have to pay for the software themselves.
The rule has already been introduced in major cities, and is now tro be applied nationwide.
It costs between 20,000 yuan – about $3,000 – and 60,000 yuan; rather a lot in China. And there’s a 5,000 yuan fine if owners carry on offering Wifi without the software.
According to the official China Daily newspaper, many owners are simply choosing to stop offfering Wifi instead.
I won’t use the software, because I can’t afford the costly fees,” one cafe owner told the paper.
“If the restriction on the wireless service is put into effect, my cafe will be affected and I won’t be able to keep offering this service.”
The aim is, apparently, to supervise ‘illegal activities’ such as goods trafficking, blackmail, gambling and the spread of computer viruses – as well as the propagation of ‘damaging information’.
China has the world’s largest number of internet users – 485 million – and the country is desperate to keep them sheltered from content critical of the government. Internet cafes are already obliged to register users with the police.
Censorship has become even more of a concern for the country following the recent series of popular uprisings in the Middle East.