10 Things the Chinese Government Ignores About Web Censorship

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-06-08 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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. Meanwhile, China 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 it.

China 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.

Let's 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 succeed.

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

China 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 borders.

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.



 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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