By Gerry Shih
BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese government has blocked access to a swathe of websites in what an internet monitoring group said on Tuesday was a blunt censorship campaign days before the country plays host to a major internet industry conference.
Greatfire.org, a group that conducts research on Chinese internet censorship, said the Chinese government appears to have targeted a network operated by Edgecast, a subsidiary of Verizon Communications Inc that delivers content and services for web companies, rather than specific web addresses.
Greatfire.org has used Edgecast to host "mirror sites" that redirect users to otherwise censored websites like YouTube. Edgecast customers that may have been affected include The Atlantic magazine's website and Mozilla, which uses Edgecast to deliver plug-in services for its Firefox browser, the monitoring group said.
In a statement, Edgecast said there were disruptions to its operations in China. "We have put policies in place to help our customers mitigate the effects of this most recent filtering but expect this to be an ongoing issue for our customers seeking to reach Chinese users," the California-based company said.
The information office of China's State Council, or cabinet, did not immediately respond to a fax seeking comment.
From Wednesday, China will host the World Internet Conference in eastern Zhejiang Province, an event designed to showcase China's rising standing in the global technology industry and its positions on internet governance issues.
The event is being organized by China's newly formed Cyberspace Administration and will draw Chinese policymakers and top industry executives including the chief executives of China's biggest tech companies Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Tencent Holdings and Baidu Inc.
Lu Wei, the head of the Cyberspace Administration, has repeatedly defended internet censorship, saying it was critical to protect China's interests.
In a statement this week, human rights watchdog Amnesty International said the internet conference was part of the Chinese government's efforts to influence global cyberspace rules and "a further sign that internet freedom is under a sustained attack".
(Editing by Miral Fahmy)