News Analysis: Web censorship is giving the Chinese government a black eye. Time and again, it has said that its practices are due to its desire to work in the best interest of the country. But it needs to learn a thing or two about Web censorship before it even considers continuing its strategy.
The Chinese government issued a "white paper" this week
to highlight its stance on Web censorship. The country discussed why it blocks
Websites and why it will continue to block sites that include content it
deems is aimed at "subverting state power, undermining national unity,
infringing upon national honor and interests, inciting ethnic hatred and
secession," among several other issues. Furthermore, the while paper said that
the Internet is controlled by the state and that won't be changing anytime soon.
It's rather sad to see China
make clear that its stance on the Internet is one of fear and distrust. The
country has been blocking sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook for a while.
Recently, location-based social network Foursquare was blocked
after users performed a silent protest over Tiananmen Square.
made it clear that if the Internet is to be used for free expression by its
people or even those outside the country, it will do everything it can to stop
obviously doesn't understand the Web. Its ideas on censorship fly in the face
of reality. And it's the main reason why its 384 million Web users, just 29
percent of its population, will continue to fight back.
take a look at what China just doesn't get about Web censorship
1. It never works
Web censorship might seem to work for China,
but it really doesn't. If a Chinese citizen really wants to get the content he
or she desires, the citizen will find a way around it. That has been a constant
thorn in China's
side throughout the years, as folks continue to find ways to thwart China's
censors. Maybe it's time for China
to realize that it won't get any better. Try
as it might to stop content from leaking out into communities
, it won't
2. It causes users to find workarounds
Following that, it's
important for the Chinese government to know that citizens are finding
workarounds all the time
. In some cases, that's not such a big deal. But in
many other cases, the techniques folks use aren't so safe. Whether it's running
an IP address through servers around the world or any other technique, there
are real risks involved in users trying to find ways around censorship. It can
wreak havoc on a user's machine and easily spread those issues across the
country. It happens all the time in the United
States. Isn't it about time China
realizes that it can (and does) happen within its own borders, as well?
3. The rest of the world is watching
believes that what it's doing is in its own best interest. And since it
believes that it owns the Internet in China,
the government can do what it wants, when it wants, without fear of reprisal.
That's a faulty belief. The world is watching as China
limits the rights of its people. And although there isn't a lot that a single
person can do, rest assured that collectively the rest of the world is doing
its part fight the censorship. For example, Foursquare was blocked in China
recently after users "checked in" to Tiananmen Square
on the anniversary of the event. The vast majority of those folks were spoofing
the service and saying they were in China
when, in fact, they were in other areas around the world. China
responded by banning Foursquare, but the point was made that Web censorship
goes beyond China's
4. It doesn't stop the debate
It's worth noting that Web censorship does little to curb the
debate on whether or not China
is really acting in its people's best interests. Although it has censored
search results, sites have been banned and people have been limited by what
they can say, the conversation on censorship continues in different corners of
the Web where China
can't find it. China
might believe that it's effectively curbing outcry, but it's kidding itself.