Purging the Internet: more than 1,000 arrests since mid-February

Chinese police have arrested a total of 1,065 suspects and cleared more than 208,000 “harmful” messages during the anti-internet operations conducted since mid-February, said Saturday Xinhua news agency.

Operators of more than 3,000 websites have been warned in this campaign, these “harmful” messages include arms smuggling, drugs, dangerous chemicals, the sale of human organs and personal information, says Xinhua.

Two of the biggest microblogging service providers in China, Sina Weibo and Tencent QQ Weibo, has suspended the ability for users to post comments since Saturday morning, ostensibly to fight against “rumors”. The two giants of the internet have stated on their websites that this measure would remain in effect until April 3, while the authorities, concerned about the flood of criticism conveyed by microblogs, trying to strengthen their control over the Web.

“The rumors and negative information spread by illegal and harmful microblogs have had bad social consequences,” said Tencenton, a heavyweight social networks focusing on instant messaging, microblogging and online games in China. “The comments contain a vast amount of harmful information. It is necessary to clean the network,” explained Tencent. “From 8am on March 31 to 8am on April 3, comment function of Weibo will be temporarily suspended”, said Sina, which owns the largest blogging service in China, Weibo.com.

This is not the first time that Chinese version of Twitter been censored in China or subject to restrictions. However, it is the first time that all the online discussions are closed to comments.

China has more than half a billion Internet users and more than 300 million registered Weibo accounts. The Chinese authorities have tightened their control on this vast community in recent months.

Since March 16, users can theoretically create an account of microblogs under the real name, although this meature has not applied systematically. Microblogs are a particularly popular among Chinese Internet users to communicate and disseminate information, in a country where the press is strictly muzzled by the State. The Chinese Communist Party, party in power, followed by a worried eye on Arab spring, knowing the role played by social networks that served as a mobilizing tool for the anonymous pro-democracy activists.