China has established a new office to take over the supervision of all Internet content and approve businesses that engage in online news reporting.
The office, known as the State Internet Information Office, is headed by Wang Chen, director of the State Council's Information Office. The office replaces a patchwork arrangement that has involved the police, the information ministry and other offices.
The official Xinhua news agency quoted a senior official in the office Thursday saying its goal is to ensure the healthy development of the Internet and protect it from dangers posed by pornography, gambling and fraud.
However free-speech advocates complain that Chinese authorities heavily censor the Internet to weed out political comment or anything deemed threatening to the ruling Communist Party.
The State Council General Office said the new Internet office will "direct, coordinate and supervise online content management and handle administrative approval of businesses related to online news reporting."
It said the office will direct the development of online gaming, video and online publication industries. It will also promote the construction of major news websites, and manage the government's online publicity work.
The general office said the new department will also investigate and punish websites that violate laws and regulations.