US files WTO request for details of China’s Internet censorship

Posted On November 4, 2011
In Censorship of Cyberspace / Reply

The United States Trade Representative has used a World Trade Organization process to seek details of China’s policies and processes for censoring Internet content. According to the USTR, “a number of U.S. businesses, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises, have expressed concerns regarding the adverse business impacts from periodic disruptions to the availability of their websites in China”.

The USTR has requested, amongst other things, information on: the ministry responsible for determining if and when a foreign website should be blocked; the criteria for blocking access to a foreign website; the process for implementing a block; whether a decision to block can be appealed; and whether there are differences in the processes used to block foreign and domestic websites.

The filing of a request such as this is often the first step in initiating a formal trade dispute in the WTO. A country found guilty of breaching WTO free trade rules can be ordered to change its policies and process, or face retaliatory trade sanctions.

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