10/03/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Beijing spying on Skype users and their messages

Skype’s Chinese partner filters sensitive texts on behalf of the Chinese government, supplying name of text senders and receivers. A similar scandal hit Yahoo! which reported to the authorities the identity of two of its Chinese subscribers who were imprisoned for ten years.
New York (AsiaNews/ Agencies) – China monitors and censor Skype message and chat-lines, Skype reported, accusing its own mainland partner, Tom-Skype, of violating subscribers’ privacy. Not only Tom-Skype censors terms that are deemed sensitive to the Chinese government, but stores them along with personal records that could identify users.

Two years ago Skype admitted that to enter the Chinese market it accepted preventive censorship on message containing words like ‘Falun Gong’, ‘Taiwan’ or phrase critical or against the Chinese Communist Party. But it revealed that Tom-Skype has supplied the Chinese government with names of message senders and receivers.

Skype accused Tom-Skype of changing policies without its consent.

The Tom Group, parent company of Tom-Skype's majority owner Tom Online, said in a statement that as “a Chinese company, we adhere to rules and regulations in China where we operate our businesses.”

The “confession” followed a University of Toronto Citizen Lab report that said it found a database containing at least 150,000 politically sensitive words which had been blocked by China.

For years major Internet companies have had to accept preventive filtering of information and e-mail in order to operate in China.

Last year Yahoo! was at the centre of an international scandal for providing Chinese police with the names of some of its subscribers who had published online articles on democracy.

At least two of them, journalist Shi Tao and writer Wang Xiaoning, were sentenced to ten year in prison for divulging “state secrets on the Internet.”

Thanks to a decision by the US Congress that bans companies from helping Chinese censorship, Yahoo! was forced to a pay a huge fine to the families of the two aforementioned prisoners.

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