Chinese Lessons For SOPA/PIPA: The Great Firewall Of China Was Once A Way To Stop Infringement Too

from the well-look-at-that dept

There's an interesting LA Times article looking at the reaction in China to the recent SOPA/PIPA blackouts. While they (quite reasonably) point out that the level of censorship in China is much more extreme, one key point did catch my attention. Apparently, when the Great Firewall of China was first set up... Chinese officials defended it as a way to cut down on infringement:
Wen supports U.S. activists challenging the bills, saying it’s a slippery slope to lesser web access. He said China’s so-called Great Firewall, which blocks access to many foreign sites like Facebook and Twitter, was first billed as a strategy to stop piracy and pornography.

“Now it’s being abused and extended to thousands of websites,” he said.
The slippery slope to censorship starts with the insistence that the mechanism for censorship only has "the best intentions." But the reality is that once you have the infrastructure for censorship, it's only a matter of time until that censorship expands. It's just too powerful for those in control.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 6:58am

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    The Logician (profile), Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 7:01am

    Censorship to politicians is like heroin to an addict. They can neither get enough of it nor go without it once they have obtained it.

     

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  3.  
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    Michael, Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 7:08am

    Absolute power?

    Corrupts absolutely.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    anonymous, Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 7:09am

    'It's just too powerful for those in control.'
    dont agree with this at all. i think it becomes a tool that is so powerful, those in control cant stop themselves from using to abuse that power!

     

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  5.  
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    Machin Shin (profile), Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 7:21am

    Re:

    Really I think the problem is that power in general is like heroin for politicians. They always want more and more power. SOPA just was on of the ways they saw they could increase that power. Now that there was massive resistance to that bill they will put it away for now and instead look for more power somewhere else. Don't worry though, they will come back to trying to take power over the internet soon enough.

     

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  6.  
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    Alex Schroeder, Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 7:26am

    Finland

    In Finland, it started with fighting child pornography.
    http://www.ecyrd.com/ButtUgly/wiki/Main_blogentry_130208_1

     

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  7.  
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    Rich Kulawiec, Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 7:36am

    Re: Finland

    Of course it did. That's one of theFour Horsemen of the Infocalypse. Very politically expedient; you can almost set your watch by the regular occurrences of these in reference to legislation that will achieve precisely zero in fighting any of them. See, for example, H.R. 1981: Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011 which will not only do absolutely nothing to stop pornographers from exploiting children, but will have EXACTLY the opposite effect: it will make children far more vulnerable to them.

     

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  8.  
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    Richard (profile), Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 7:36am

    Interesting argument

    There's an interestin argument here if you read through the link.

    The Chinese Firewall works precisely because they don't target mainstream entertainment piracy - but confine their attentions to (relatively) minority interests like politics.

    So the argument coming from the MAFIAA that China proves that the technical aspects of blocking are practicable actually fails.

     

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  9.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 7:43am

    Chris Dodd begs to differ. How can you keep being intellectually dishonest and repeat these lies? It's not censorship, it's not only about the infringement, it's all about the children...

    shill masters whisper: No, the artists, this isn't about child porn. Yet.

    Er, I mean the artists.

     

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  10.  
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    ShellMG, Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 7:55am

    I'm not sure if this is censorship, reprisal by the White House or just the TSA's latest attempt to appear "impartial," but Sen. Rand Paul has been detained by the TSA after refusing a patdown. He was on his way to give a speech for March For Life.

    Ron Paul posted on his facebook and says he'll update soon.

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0112/71818.html

    Holy Cow!

     

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  11.  
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    The eejit (profile), Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 7:57am

    Re: Re: Finland

    Also intr4oduced by one...Rep. Lamar Smith. Funny that.

     

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  12.  
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    Getefix, Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 8:10am

    Bribe to Blacklist

    I keep in touch with an ex-girlfriend in Wuhan. She had serious problems accessing many sites I gave her in an attempt to back up her PhD thesis materials. We checked the sites on http://www.greatfirewallofchina.org/ and they were not listed as officially blocked. Only one Chinese on-line backup site would work. My guess is that this company paid the ISP to blacklist all its competitors. If they get caught they can just say they were overzealous in enforcing the edicts of the government. Seems like any ISP-enforced system of censorship would be just as vulnerable to this type of abuse.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 8:14am

    For a country like ours having an independent judiciary precisely for the purpose of providing a check on the excesses of the legislative and executive branches, it is dispiriting to see so many who fail to understand this very core concept is not a part of the foundational core of other governments.

    For example, here is an excerpt from the federal constitution of another sovereign power:

    In accordance with the interests of the people and in order to strengthen and develop (text deleted), citizens of (name deleted) are guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly, meetings, street processions and demonstrations.

    The excerpt sounds pretty good on its face. Unfortunately, an independent judiciary was not at the core of the country's founding principles, and it is here where the United States parts ways with it and other such governments.

    The quote, by the way, is taken from Section 50 of the USSR's 1977 Constitution. Is there any doubt that its "freedom of speech, press, etc." was not quite up to par with ours? Fortunately, Chapter 1, Section 2 of the Russian Federation Constitution of 1993 carries forward these fundamental rights.

    It seems my faith in our judicial system is not in vogue to read so many of the comments on this site.

    To compare the US and China concerning "censorship" and "slippery slopes" is so inapt I can scarcely believe people dare to do so. Perhaps they should try reading the latter's Constitution at Chapter II, Article 35 before rushing off and drawing comparisons between the US and China.

     

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  14.  
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    Loki, Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 8:25am

    Re:

    LOL, except for the part where some artists tend to disagree.

    One of my favorite bits is:

    I am 100% opposed to SOPA and PIPA, even though I'm one of the artists they were allegedly written to protect. I've probably lost a few hundred dollars in my life to what the MPAA and RIAA define as piracy, and that sucks, but that doesn't come close to how much money I've lost from a certain studio's creative accounting.

    Then there is one of his responses in the comments:

    Anecdotally, I've observed that the older a person is, the more likely they are to uncritically buy the MPAA/RIAA party line. The hardest thing in the world, even for me as recently as a couple years ago, is to understand and adapt to the reality that there are people (we call them "freetards") who simply won't ever pay for something, so we have to just let that perceived loss of income go. The way to truly combat piracy, as Gabe Newell said, is to give your customers better service than the pirates: don't use DRM, don't make people sit through endless commercials and bullshit before they can watch the DVD they legally purchased, don't region lock legal purchases, etc.

    It isn't easy, at all, to accept the changing world, but speaking as an actor who relies on residuals and merchandise royalties, I can say unequivocally that creative accounting, reality TV, and vertical integration of media companies is more of a threat to my earnings than any kind of piracy.


    I haven't had the time to read, or inclination to buy, books the past few years, but as soon as I can I intend to buy both the ebook and audiobook for everything he's written (not just because I agree with his ideas, but because I didn't realize until just recently he was a hard core gamer geek like myself).

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 8:28am

    Re: Finland

    I have always held that those in favor of censorship and move to make laws to enact censorship are actually enabling child pornography.

    By purposefully drafting legislation which would have a broad impact on things other than child exploitation, but contain child-protection clauses, they give legitimate reasons for people to fight and denounce those laws. It's the inevitable flip-side to the argument that bad laws which include "protect the children" provisions must be passed because who could vote against such laws?

    If a legislator endorses or signs a bill purporting to protect children which is not narrowly defined to only protect children, they're supporting child exploitation.

     

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  16.  
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    Richard (profile), Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 8:29am

    Re:

    What you say is fine - provided two other things are true.

    1. The executive doesn't have ways of routeing around the judiciary.

    2. The judiciary is genuinely independent - that is not only that it is not subject to direct pressure from the government but also that there are not external pressures from corporations etc that impact equally on the judiciary as on the government and that the commonality of the social group from which both politicians and judges are drawn does not influence the judiciary away from the interests of the remainder of the population.

    In summary - as you say it is better to have an independent judiciary in theory than not - but having one in practice is better still and we do not always have that.

    This is wel exemplified by the UK situation - where politicians are eager to wrest power away from European judges and place it in the hands of UK judges. Both sets of judges are independent - but it seems that some are more independent than others - and the politicians don't like it!

     

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  17.  
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    DH's Love Child (profile), Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 8:40am

    Re:

    "For a country like ours having an independent judiciary precisely for the purpose of providing a check on the excesses of the legislative and executive branches, it is dispiriting to see so many who fail to understand this very core concept is not a part of the foundational core of other governments."

    This would be the same system that has allowed the warrentless wiretapping of its own citizens to go completely unchecked? and the ICE to seize websites without any adversarial hearing? And the extradition of a British citizen who has never set foot on US soil?

    This is the system of checks and balances that you believe makes the US so much better than China?

     

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  18.  
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    Rich Kulawiec, Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 8:42am

    Re: Re:

    I've probably lost a few hundred dollars in my life to what the MPAA and RIAA define as piracy, and that sucks, but that doesn't come close to how much money I've lost from a certain studio's creative accounting.

    Any of us who've ever played in a band for any length of time have accumulated an entire catalog of stories about bar and club owners, managers, promoters, ticket agents, producers, record companies, and everyone else that we've come into contact with. Some of those stories are good. Most of them aren't. Jerry Corbetta and Sugarloaf nailed this in 1975: Don't Call Us, We'll Call You and nothing has changed since.

    See also: "Have a Cigar" (Pink Floyd), "Barracuda" (Heart), "Five Percent For Nothing" (Yes), The Stroke (Billy Squire), Workin' for the MCA (Lynyrd Skynyrd), and MANY others.

     

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  19.  
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    ls, Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 8:54am

    Im against SOPA/PIPA BUT...since the quote in the article

    "He said China’s so-called Great Firewall, which blocks access to many foreign sites like Facebook and Twitter, was first billed as a strategy to stop piracy and pornography."

    was obviously not that at all but actually designed to stop social networking and ideas that would threaten the regime the whole premise of this article is based on nonsense.

    so what is the point here? why did you write this?

     

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  20.  
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    Neppe (profile), Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 9:05am

    Re:

    was obviously not that at all but actually designed to stop social networking and ideas that would threaten the regime the whole premise of this article is based on nonsense.
    [Citation needed]

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 9:29am

    Re: Re:

    Our judicial system is not a "police department". It does not exercise "police powers". Instead, it deals only with cases and controversies that are brought before it.

    Does this mean that excesses can occur? Of course, they happen across the broad spectrum of US and state civil and criminal law. But unlike countries such as China, aggrieved persons within the US may not denied the right to challenge such excesses before a judicial tribunal.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 9:34am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I neglected to mention, judges appointed under Article III of the US Constitution are appointed for life, precisely to facilitate an independent judiciary.

     

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  23.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 10:03am

    My favorite quote form the Chinese on SOPA was

    Why don't we swap places, the Americans come here and pirate all they want, and we can go to America and have political debates.

     

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  24.  
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    monkyyy, Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 10:48am

    Re: Absolute power?

    any power, corrupts anyone

     

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  25.  
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    LC (profile), Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 5:47pm

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    Mya, Jan 24th, 2012 @ 3:36am

    The information was interesting and useful.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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