By Xu Shenglan
China's network information center said that individuals are effectively barred from registering domain names ending with .cn unless they have a business license to show they're a bona fide company.
The announcement came after a report by China Central Television (CCTV) aired criticism of the registration process and linked it to the prevalence of pornographic websites.
The China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) published a notice Sunday saying that applicants must submit written applications to the registration agents. The written materials must include an application form with an official seal, an enterprise business license and the registrant's ID card.
CNNIC plans to verify the information of the owners of personal site in the nation. Those found unqualified to have a site will be required to update the information in five working days, otherwise they will be shut down.
The Internet Domain Name Regulations stipulates that websites will be closed if the domain name registrants fail to submit real, accurate and complete information.
CCTV reported last Wednesday that some domain registration agents approved website addresses with .cn even though the information submitted is incomplete or inaccurate, which leads to a large quantity of pornography websites.
The report said a man named Zheng Junfa in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province was recently arrested for operating dozens of pornographic websites. Some of the websites were closed during a crackdown, but Zheng reopened them with a different website address. Investigations revealed that Zheng has more then 30 website addresses ending with .cn.
The report said the CNNIC has failed to exercise its legal responsibility to properly manage domain name registration.
Three domain name registration agents on the mainland, Zhengzhou-based unndc.com, Beijing-based namerich.cn and xinnet.com were exposed in the report and their business of .cn domain name registration was suspended Friday.
The .cn extension is used to identify a domain as belonging to China while those in Germany use .de, for example.
The number of .cn domain name registrations has surpassed 10 million, becoming the mainstream domain name in China. Important websites related to the national economy and the people's livelihood all use .cn domain name.
"The regulation will efficiently restrict porn websites," Shang Guan, a media worker in Beijing, told the Global Times.
However, Professor Wang Sixin at the Communication University of China said the move would restrict people's rights to participate in network activity.
"The watchdog can punish the porn websites but it's not reasonable to ban individuals from registering websites; not every registrant wants to spread erotic information online. It'll filter out the bad information but will also block those useful and positive ones," he told the Global Times.
Individual users in overseas countries, such as the US, are freely allowed to register domain names. In Hong Kong, individual Internet users are able to register domain names by paying a fee to agents.
Once a domain name is registered to a person, it is that person's right to use exclusively as long as they continue to pay the annual renewal fee.
"The move will increase the obstacles facing people who want to express themselves online and will ultimately restrict the development of the Internet," Wang added.
Internet user Shuai Xin told the Global Times that the new regulation is unreasonable.
"Most websites are registered by individuals. The information online will be boring if all the websites are registered by enterprises," Shuai said.
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