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Stop the virtual presses: officials try to fill a crack in the edifice of censorship

…On July 24th the Beijing municipal branch of the Cyberspace Administration of China ordered some of China’s biggest internet companies, including Sina, Sohu and Netease (which are listed on NASDAQ), to stop publishing independent reports on politically sensitive topics. Official media said some news portals would be fined. Such restrictions have been in place at least since 2005. But internet companies have often ignored them (albeit cautiously), hoping to attract more readers among the country’s 700m netizens.

Censors may also be worried that online media might contradict official reports on recent floods. They have clamped down hard on users of social media who have done so. In the northern city of Xingtai, three people have been punished for spreading “rumours” online about flash floods there that caused at least 34 deaths…