China Ramps Up Online Censorship Efforts As US Congress Gives Them Perfect Cover

from the this-is-what-we're-allowing dept

As the US seeks to set up its own "Great Firewall" by copying Chinese censorship techniques in the twin bills SOPA and PROTECT IP (PIPA), it appears that China is doing exactly as you would expect when you give a government the tools to censor the internet: it keeps ramping up the censorship. Specifically, it's requiring anyone who uses the local equivalents of Twitter, like Sina Weibo, to register with their real names, which then have to be verified by the government. Then, they're banning the posting of anything the government deems to be "harmful information."

Now, I know that every time we compare SOPA/PIPA to the Great Firewall, the defenders of those bills twist themselves into contortions to explain why it's totally different because US censorship is about "intellectual property" and Chinese censorship is about "political repression." Yeah. Ok. But if you look at what China says, of course they don't say it's about political repression -- they say it's about "harmful information." Kinda like SOPA/PIPA's focus on "rogue sites," right? It's all in how you define it, but the fact is that they're both forms of censorship, and when you open the door to that in the US, you don't want to see where it ends.

And, of course, the State Department -- despite all its rhetoric about "Internet Freedom" -- can't do a damn thing, because the second they say anything to the Chinese, the Chinese point to SOPA/PIPA and say: "Look, you consider copyright infringement to be harmful to the US. We consider people disrespecting our leaders as harmful to China. What's the difference?" And, honestly, the State Department has no credible response. This is why we've been hearing from multiple sources that many people within the State Department are quite upset about SOPA/PIPA. Not only do they undermine online security, but they undermine a multi-year effort to push for more internet freedom abroad.


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  •  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Dec 20th, 2011 @ 9:39am

    "the defenders of those bills twist themselves into contortions to explain why it's totally different"

    When I do it, I do it sarcastically.

     

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      Mycroft Holmes, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 11:49am

      Re:

      And in the news today:
      "Sarcastic Yoga is the latest craze on the internet! Congress to pass a bill to protect your children from this latest online mental damage!"

       

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    anonymous, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 9:45am

    one of the biggest topics when meetings are held between China and basically any country associated with 'the free world', is human rights. once PIPA and SOPA are put into law, how can that topic ever be raised again? the USA will be no different, despite what the supporters of these 2 bills say.

     

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Dec 20th, 2011 @ 10:00am

      Re: HR

      'Humans Rights' was only started as a PR gig by the UN to give us an excuse to screw with other countries.

      Don't buy into too much of that crap.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 11:39am

      Re:

      there is no such thing as human rights, they do not exist, same as crimes against humanity, it is a false way to interfere with any country the US or the UN wants to,

      do remember the UN said access to the internet is a human right, who needs food, shelter, medicine, protection from abuse, we just need the net......

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 9:48am

    "This is why we've been hearing from multiple sources that many people within the State Department are quite upset about SOPA/PIPA"

    less vague please, this isn't a new age blog.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 9:56am

      Re:

      believe it or don't if the people he is talking to want to be named then he will name them otherwise why don't you ask an actual journalist or newsource to investigate

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 9:51am

    China shows how that once the government gets involved at controlling something they tend to keep on giving themselves more and more power to get more control over those things. Lets explain with China.

    Step 1) China implements it's great firewall to stop people from visiting sites that oppose China's views or encourage opposition to China's government.

    Step 2) China's government inevitably screws something up, in this case a high speed train accident that killed dozens. China tries to cover up the accident and all news coverage of it completely.

    Step 3) People who were there and saw China's screw up (the train accident) post pictures and stories about it at online blogging sites outside of China's control.

    Step 4) The story turns into a lot people criticizing the Chinese government for not taking people's safety seriously enough. Some people begin to call for/warn others not to use China's public transportation they view as dangerous because of the accident China's response.

    Step 5) China gets mad, and decides it can't just block a popular blogging site, so they're better going after the bloggers, hence China's real name policy for the Internet.

    This wouldn't be the first overreaction by China. In the past few decades a few nut jobs started to send mailbombs to high ranking Chinese officials, so China's response was to force everyone to visit the local post office to send and receive even a single letter, or packages.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 9:58am

      Re:

      So the US is at step 3.5 and is trying to get everything in place for step 5?

       

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      TtfnJohn (profile), Dec 20th, 2011 @ 11:58am

      Re:

      And as the Great Firewall of China as a thousand leaks (see cut of a thousand cuts tales) the Chinese try desperately to stop it but fail.

      Gee, my real name is Joe Chen. In a country of a billion people that means there must be at least 250 millon who share my name!

      Just as, in my case, having a name like John Wilson means never having to get an unlisted phone number. Only the most determined or desperate will try to look that one up by hand or internet directory. ;-)

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 10:02am

    Actually, aren't there proposals floating around in congress to ban anonymous blogs in the US?

     

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      The eejit (profile), Dec 20th, 2011 @ 10:10am

      Re:

      Wouldn't surprise me in the least. Fascism has a new form - America.

       

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      Ninja (profile), Dec 20th, 2011 @ 10:11am

      Re:

      Yet. TD has an excellent article on some idiot on... What was it, Washington post, criticizing anonymity.

      China, a few years ago: "But, but, they aren't discussing the ban of anonymous blogs so the Great Firewall is ok!" fastforwad to 2010-2011... Oh right.

      2001, Patriot Act: US Govt would never do anything to harm its citizens. Fastforward to 2011... NDAA!

       

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    Ninja (profile), Dec 20th, 2011 @ 10:18am

    Lost moral high ground

    They (the US) have lost any moral high ground for a while now. Remember when Obama said during his campaign that he'd close Guantanamo and stop with the lack of due process? Now we got brand new NDAA and SOPA.

    They should stop with this hypocrisy and admit they just want to be like China.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 10:37am

    The author has a point...

    The author seems to admit in taking some exaggerations in using the China/ US comparison here. But, I don’t think the author has it all wrong.

    In this country political wedge issues are commonly used to target certain bases.. Say for example a website pertaining to abortion (Planned Parenthood), the Muslim religion, Gay Marriage etc. Once Pandora’s box is opened, it will be a big heaping, smelly, mess of censorship. Political leaders will use the internet sites as cannon fodder for rallying their faithful. I can envision the religious right screaming to revoke Planned Parenthood’s internet presence. Of course the door swings both ways here. Al Gore was probably one of the biggest advocates of music censorship. The PMRC is notorious for such actions. I’m sure this will also translate to the net as well.

    So I would have to say that China’s comparison is a realistic approach here.

    It won’t start out that way. But, once this is in place, it will take giant steps in tearing down what is now a “neutral electronic ecosystem” and be replace it with a very biased mixture of social & political propaganda. So I don’t think political repression is in fact out of the question. Will servers hosting web sites have to give equal time to candidates should they support one party? Will one political view point suppress the opposition’s viewpoint? I think it is a bit naïve to think that won’t ever happen when you give congress full power and authority over the internet. Congress does make the law. Once they are in it, they can start adding to their authority over it.

    In short, if knocking down a Planned Parenthood website will strongly help political candidates get the voting support they are after, they are going to do it!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 10:38am

    Easy answer

    "Look, you consider copyright infringement to be harmful to the US. We consider people disrespecting our leaders as harmful to China. What's the difference?"


    Because the people disrespecting your leaders are not bribing your government. DUH!!!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 10:39am

    another veto too required...

     

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    average_joe (profile), Dec 20th, 2011 @ 10:54am

    Now, I know that every time we compare SOPA/PIPA to the Great Firewall, the defenders of those bills twist themselves into contortions to explain why it's totally different because US censorship is about "intellectual property" and Chinese censorship is about "political repression." Yeah. Ok. But if you look at what China says, of course they don't say it's about political repression -- they say it's about "harmful information." Kinda like SOPA/PIPA's focus on "rogue sites," right? It's all in how you define it, but the fact is that they're both forms of censorship, and when you open the door to that in the US, you don't want to see where it ends.

    Sigh. Can you really not see the difference between the government blocking speech because of the idea being expressed and the government shutting down a few websites that are devoted to infringement, i.e., devoted to violating other people's rights? Trying to FUD this out like this just makes you look bad, desperate, and crazy, IMO. You're lucky enough to live in a place that allows you to so publicly hate your government, Mike.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 11:00am

      Re:

      Not government, just bad government decisions that affect everyone.

      And if it's just a few websites that are devoted to infringement, then why doesn't SOPA or PROTETCT IP do just that, and name the few websites it wishes to block?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 11:13am

      Re:

      Can you really not the see the similarities between a government blocking speech and a government blocking speech?

      Can you really not tell the difference between shutting down a website after an adversarial trial and shutting down a website simply because someone complained to a payment processor/ISP/search engine/ad provider or even an attorney general?

      Can you really not see the difference between one government ramping up its censorship after it got its foot in the censorship door and another government trying to get its foot into the censorship door?

      I can see the difference between a foot-in-the-door technique and a door-in-the-face technique and I see both going on with SOPA/PIPA. The initial version of SOPA is the door-in-the-face. After the uproar, they scale it back to get it passed and then use it as the foot-in-the-door for censorship.

       

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      AStroTurf, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 11:18am

      Re: Aveerage_joe

      I missed the sarc mark... Are you serious or just not a student of history?

       

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      JarHead, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 11:23am

      Re:

      Can you really not see the difference between the government blocking speech because of the idea being expressed and the government shutting down a few websites that are devoted to infringement, i.e., devoted to violating other people's rights?

      Theoretically, I agree with you, there's a difference. But in the real world that difference is blurred to the max. Guess in which world we all live in, theoretical or real.

       

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      The eejit (profile), Dec 20th, 2011 @ 11:52am

      Re:

      Both are speech that tohers don't like. So no, there is no difference.

       

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      TtfnJohn (profile), Dec 20th, 2011 @ 1:45pm

      Re:

      While, simplistically you're right all infringement of the rights and liberties of a people start "innocently" enough but end up, first linearly, then exponentially extinguishing all other rights until none are left.

      You might, as one has suggested, learn something from history.

      The death of the Roman republic began with the megalomania of a fella named Julius Caesar. his son Octavian who because Augustus the emperor all the time promising a restoration of the republic to a nasty bit of goods named Tiberius who simply scared the people that counted into compliance, to Caligula who openly and publically killed anyone and every one he didn't like sometimes shortly after screwing them including his own sister, to Claudius who just gave up all pretense of restoring a republic a nice enough chap in himself but whose wife sometimes made Caligula look sane, to Nero at which point the Claudian line ended and the republic was dead even if there would still be a Senate for the next thousand years. No one really took it all that seriously.

      Not to say that the United States will follow that path but the same thing applies. Rights were removed a little at a time. First by Julius Ceasar, then a bit more by Augustus, the accelerating with Tiberius, to completely gone with Caligula in the space of less than 4 years to the final madman of the Claudian line by which point it was all gone.

      Begins incrementally the accelerates exponentially until nothing is left.

      It's for that very reason that the founders of the United States left the message not to trust government. To resist and oppose it where necessary and to overthrow it when necessary, by electoral means of course. Though it seems Jefferson, if I remember correctly, thought otherwise at times.

      People in the States are seeing the slow erosion of what they consider rights and the US Constitution says are rights in the text itself, inherited from sources such as Magna Charta and rulings by the US Supreme Court since independence was gained.

      Some see it starting and accelerating under the Patriot Act and interpretation of government powers contained in it and now with SOPA/PIPA adding to what they consider to be an alarming loss of the rights, freedoms and liberties so central to being an American.

      I'd have some fear for the future, Joe, instead of a narrow reading of law to guide you but to look for trends that go beyond law itself and into what it means to be an American where they see the early linear part of the loss of liberty and fear the exponential loss that invariably happens as power assumes more and more rights to itself taking them away from "We, the People" to take on themselves.

      The sad irony is that all this is happening while up here in the great White North we are moving in the opposite direction with our relatively new Constitution and its Charter of Rights and Freedoms where the courts and the people are chipping more and more power FROM government.

      At one time we had a draconian piece of legislation known as the War Measures Act. It's purpose was to control media and people during World War One and later for World War Two. It was reimposed on us in 1972 in response to a terrorist act inside Canada by a home grown lot who kidnapped and murdered two people in support of their aims. Pierre Trudeau, probably the greatest supporter and promoter of political, social and individual rights ever to hold the Prime Minister's Office, imposed the Act in an attempt to smoke out the terrorists which led to troops on the streets of Montreal, Ottawa and elsewhere including "sensitive" installations like the Port of Vancouver and Vancouver International Airport both of which suddenly had soldiers guarding them. Unlike the Patriot Act once imposed the War Measures Act had 120 days to be passed through both houses of Parliament with a timeline to remove it included. The imposition of the Act actually lasted for far less time than that, if memory serves.

      Once the Charter passed the first bit of law declared unconstitutional was the War Measures Act, again, going on memory.

      SOPA/PIPA may not end up going to the extremes some here are afraid or terrified that it will. But there's not much comfort there as the Patriot Act keeps applying more and more broadly as the chances of another outside terrorist attack become less and less likely which is what it was passed to prevent.

      Two long time friends, neighbours and allies moving in different directions. The northern one taking the first halting steps to kicking the slats out of government while the southern one seeming to move the other way.

      With all due respect, Joe, narrow legalism allows the first while a vision of how we want Canada to be allows the second. As what we want is what America had pre-Patriot Act and without stuff like SOPA and PIPA.

      Our war measures act was an over-reaction to war and,finally, "apprehended insurrection" before it got tossed into the chuck. The Patriot Act always struck me as an over-reaction and that, as you know is about the nicest thing I can say about SOPA/PIPA. The reality of either of the latter is they're just not needed and will totally and completely backfire, in my opinion, back up on not only law but as a lifetime passionate student of history.

      By all means defend copyright, if you must. But not copyright as a long term, if not permanent should they get their way, welfare plan for profitable, if fading, industries.

      Censorship is censorship regardless of the excuse for it. Narrow legalism and the lies and exaggerations of Hollywood don't excuse it.

      Particularly as it cannot and will not work.

       

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    arcan, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 10:55am

    most interesting bill in the world

    I don't always pass legislation that will destroy the internet. but when I do, I get payed a lot

     

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      crade (profile), Dec 20th, 2011 @ 11:31am

      Re: most interesting bill in the world

      It's not really gunna "destroy" it.. It's just going to make it suck a bit more.. China has it in place (the technical part) and still has internet, for example. It's just more limited, doesn't work as well and has big brother looking over your shoulder all the time.

       

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    darryl, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 12:04pm

    US is no rolemodel

    you think china actually CARE what the US is doing ?

    Do you honestly believe China (or any other country) wants to follow the US's lead ???

    Honestly, NO ONE CARES about the US, except possibly a few people who happen to live in the US.

    Countries do not look at the US and say to themselves "what a fantastic country, lets make our country just like that!".

    Possibly 40 or 50 years ago that might of been the case, but these days you dont have anything.

    even countries like india are doing better than the US. The US has run out of anything to offer the world of any value. You cant even pay your own bills, comparing the US to china, it wont be long until china OWNS the us, if they dont allready.

     

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      Fickelbra (profile), Dec 20th, 2011 @ 12:32pm

      Re: US is no rolemodel

       

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      TtfnJohn (profile), Dec 20th, 2011 @ 1:59pm

      Re: US is no rolemodel

      What the United States Constitution says and, for the most part, the behaviour of the United States internationally until the end of the second world war is the role model. Indeed, I'd say until the passage of the Patriot Act the United States as an ideal, if not an entity was the role model.

      The United States remains as an ideal and a role model for the rest of us if not exactly what it's become since Vietnam.

      No the United States isn't bankrupt of ideas or ideals. On the former though it ought to be alarming that Japan, India, Brazil and China all saw more patent applications for the first time in history than the United States has in 2010. Not accepted, just each had more applications.

      And none, with the possible and only possible exception of China are going to filter for real or imagined "infringing" web sites. Nor have any said they're going to join in American attempts to choke off real or imagined "piracy" which sorta just leaves the USA hanging out there alone.

      So perhaps, but only perhaps you're right when you say no country looks to the States as it currently is as a role model. But the ideal and idea expressed in the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution are still ideals most countries strive for whether they say so or not.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    A country would have to be a total moron, idiot to want to take the advice of stupid yank who thinks they somehow know better !!!

    DO you think countries like china WANT countries like the US telling them how they should do something ?

    I cannot think of any country that wants to "be like America" that includes America.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 12:39pm

    one day Masnick is going to work out the difference between censorship and the application of the law.

    but then again, he should allready know that, leaving but two choices, stupid or lying.

    If I do not freely disply my credit card number on the net is that censorship of the application of my rights under the law ?

    None of the content Mike whines about has been censored, ie, taken off the market, it is those who are using that material in an illegal way who are subject to the law.

    But i guess if it is the only way for Masnick to get his point across is to lie, then what choice does he have. Even if it does make him look like a moron, who is incapable of understanding even the most basic concepts.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 1:27pm

    "one day Masnick is going to work out the difference between censorship and the application of the law. "

    Government censorship _is_ the application of law - censorship laws. Sopa, if enacted, will eventually be expanded. Probably first to sites with dirty pictures. Next tosites with "hurtfull" content. Then sites which spread "lies" about the government or insult our great leaders, etc, etc. All of this will be excused by people like you as simply upholding the law.

     

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    A. Nnoyed, Dec 20th, 2011 @ 8:09pm

    Lawmakers willing to destroy constitution on behalf of special interests.

    Lawmakers do not have a clue. They are willing to destroy the constitution on behalf of special interests. Using losses caused by theft of copyrighted material is a scapegoat for poor performance in the marketplace. This is a continuation of the whining about home taping destroying the copyright holders business in the 1980's.

    How can one steal copyrighted material when it is available free through other channels. The valuable newly released material is always available free, books and movies at the local library and songs at the local top 40 FM Station. The only holders of copyrighted material that are actually making a killing are those selling out of print CD's and Books on ebay or Amazon.com. I found one CD I have in my collection offered on Amazon for around $200.00. I am sure I have more.

     

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    Legolas2112 (profile), Dec 21st, 2011 @ 8:04am

    Desopa

    Firefox plugin to circumvent government blocks.

     

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    Joey1058, Dec 24th, 2011 @ 7:37am

    SOPA/PIPA

    This is just another step to a single world government. Once congress passes this cluelessly, they'll go party on the lobbyist's money. Then the rest of the world can start rifling through the US servers and hauling people off to jail. Once they've destroyed the First Amendment, the rest of the Constitution of the United States of America will crumble like a house of cards.

    The concept of Democracy is finished. Did anyone attend the funeral?

     

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