Chinese Filters Not Stopping Political Discussions

from the maybe-you-can't-control-the-internet dept

When the internet was first catching on, there was all this talk about how it would be this revolutionary platform that was impossible to censor and would “route around” any attempts. More recently, though, people have been pointing to the examples of government online censorship in places like China and Saudi Arabia to suggest that’s not true – and it is possible to censor the internet. Well, now maybe we need to swing back to the original thesis, as a new study in China suggests that the filters are largely ineffective and plenty of political speech is getting around them. For example, many who know that the text of what they’re trying to say would be banned, are instead putting that information into image form where it’s tougher for the government to track down. Meanwhile, many realize that they have much greater access to information online and, while they know that the government is trying to block some of it, with a little searching they can find info about almost anything (which probably explains why China tried to ban Google for a while). In fact, it sounds like the only real impact the filters are having on Chinese surfers is that it slows their internet connections down.

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Comments on “Chinese Filters Not Stopping Political Discussions”

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Anonymous Coward says:

What if

What if the true grass roots political opinion in China, and I’m talking about the 70% of the population that lives in rural poverty, most of whom do not use the internet, is in fact pro-communist? Their #1 complaint is that too many resources are allocated to city dwellers. Chinese internet users mostly come from the privileged class of city dwellers. If you ask the grass roots people, the government should crack down more on spoiled city slicker pansies with their “outspoken” opinions.

As for “outspoken” views on the Chinese internet, they aren’t so much pro-democracy as they are pro-nationalist. Net forums across China celebrated when 9/11 happened.

Western governments are cracking down on a variety of communities they don’t like, such as skinheads or pedophiles. It will be interesting to see how these repressions evolve in parallel.

Anonymous Coward says:

learning from the barrel of a gun...

…If you know anything about communist bloc politics (either the Russian or Chinese variety), then you know that the goal is not to prevent the discussion, but to monitor and purge later.

The whole point to blocking speech is to require your oppoent to “innovate” so that you can latch on to new streams for monitoring. After you go through several iterations of this, your oppoent will develope a pattern and you will be able to predict his behavior ahead of time.

This is the only way to insure that purges are complete (purges, much like riots, are periods of opportunity that can not be exercised at will).

Gweilo says:

Re: learning from the barrel of a gun...

Excellent point! This reminds me of the “Let a thousand flowers bloom” period in China in the 1950s, where the Chinese Communist Party encouraged dissent. Once enough people had spoken out, they were rounded up. That’s how Deng Xiaoping first made his mark, by stamping out the thousand-flowers dissenters. His ruthlessness in this set him on a career path so robust that he survived being purged twice and eventually ran the Party (and hence the country).
Western media are constantly reporting about how China has opened up. After they’ve reported the story, they turn to other things and then come back to China in 6 months or a year to tell the same story all over again, never noticing or thinking about what must be happening in China between one opening up period and the next. There have always been relatively open periods in China, and they’re always followed by purges. Luckily, though, the Chinese Communist Party is not particularly competent. It became easier for Chinese to get outside news by satellite after the CCP forced all satellite television providers to use a Chinese company with obsolete technology (but good political connections). It apparently didn’t occur to them that this corruption might loosen their control.

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