China has issued new Internet regulations, including what appears to be an effort to create a “whitelist” of approved websites that could potentially place much of the Internet off-limits to Chinese readers.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology ordered domain management institutions and Internet service providers to tighten control over domain name registration, in a three-phase plan laid out on its website ( late on Sunday. “Domain names that have not registered will not be resolved or transferred,” it said, in the action plan to “further deepen” an anti-pornography campaign that has significantly tightened Internet controls. The rules did not specify whether the new measure applies to overseas websites, but local media reported the risk that overseas sites that have not registered could also be blocked. “If some legal foreign websites could not be logged onto because they haven't registrated with MIIT, it would be a pity for the Internet, which is meant to connect the whole world,” the Beijing News said on Tuesday. The anti-pornography drive since the summer has also netted sites with politically sensitive or simply user-generated content, in what many see as an effort by the government to reassert control over new media and its potential for citizens sharing information and organising.

China banned individuals this month from registering Websites ending in .cn, China's country code.