China tightens the screws online

PLA soldiers march in front of the apartment complex where jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo's wife lives in Beijing on December 10, 2010.</p>

PLA soldiers march in front of the apartment complex where jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo's wife lives in Beijing on December 10, 2010.

The heads of China's top Internet companies have agreed to increase their own monitoring of user content online, marking perhaps the latest step in the country's increasingly intolerant climate for dissenting voices.

The official Xinhua news agency reported over the weekend that the leaders of 39 Internet companies, including web giants Baidu and Alibaba, had pledged to curb "rumors" spread online and to better police potentially harmful content. The particulars of what might be rumors or harmful wasn't precisely spelled out. The news comes just after China announced new curbs on television programming, aiming to cut down on frivolous and entertaining shows, while upping the amount of airtime given to discussing the successes of the Communist Party of China.

All these steps are believed to be part of shoring up intolerance for difference viewpoints as the party prepares for a transition in power at the top level next year.