The number of websites in China dropped dramatically last year, a new report says, with more than a million sites shut due the Chinese government’s repressive internet controls.
China had 1.91 million websites at the end of 2010, a 41 percent drop from the previous year, according to a report by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank.
Independent experts say the drop in websites is due to China’s heavy handed internet controls and recent censorship campaigns, the Telegraph reports
"The number of interactive websites, including online forums, has plummeted," Wu Qiang, an internet analyst at Tsinghua University, told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. "The drop in numbers was effective in controlling speech. Online forums and bulletin boards are much less active than before."
However, the CASS report blamed the decline in websites on an economic downturn and campaigns to root out internet pornography and spam.
"China has a very high level of freedom of online speech," said CASS researcher Liu Ruisheng, the BBC reports. "There have been very few cases where websites were shut down in recent years purely to control speech."
The Chinese government aggressively blocks human rights websites such as Amnesty International, social networking sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, and many other sites through controls known as the “Great Firewall of China.”
China has the world's biggest online population with 457 million internet users, Agence France-Presse reports.