South African's internet users have failed in efforts to persuade the government to scrap plans to take control of the country's internet domain.
The country's internet professionals, including internet service providers and lawyers, had petitioned president Thabo Mbeki not to sign the controversial new electronic communications and transactions bill. But using a smart card, a fingerprint reader and a password he did just that on Thursday.
As well as allowing the government to take control of the registration and administration of internet domains, it gives the state free access to information stored on the web.
The government said the new law is aimed at fighting cyber crime. But campaigners fear that it will create a huge bureaucracy and slow the registration of new domain names for business people.
They wanted domain administration to remain in the hands of the private sector and also warned that the government's plans to gain access to private databases will drive away foreign investors. They have even labelled parts of it "unconstitutional".
But Mbeki told reporters for South African newspaper The Star that he was "not aware that the new law would be unconstitutional".
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