The world’s largest Internet population – the Chinese – were deprived of access to the New York Times last Friday, according to the newspaper. The cause for the block was not known, although Chinese authorities have resumed their unilateral Web censorship activities since the completeion of the Beijing Olympics earlier this year.
The Reuters news service confirmed the block, reporting that when computer users in cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou tried to connect on Friday to NY Times.com, they received a message that the site was unavailable. There was no access to the site from Beijing late on Saturday without the protection of a virtual private network (VPN).
But the Chinese State Information Office said it had no information on the blocks. China has repeatedly claimed that it is within its rights to block websites with content that is deemed unsuitable or illegal under Chinese law. Access to the Chinese-language versions of the BBC, Voice of America and Hong Kong media Ming Pao News and Asiaweek were blocked early this (December) month .
The country has an Internet-dedicated department that polices the medium to remove sensitive content and posts, warn bloggers who cross the line and block access to certain sites.
Internet message boards discussing the news inevitably compared the Chinese approach to the Internet with that of Kentucky, widely crtiticised for its attempt to seize and confiscate 141 global domain names. One wag posted: “Personally, I wish China would confiscate the NYT domain!”