Complementing Online Censorship With Peer Pressure And Happy Topics

from the all's-well-that-says-it's-well dept

One of the interesting things about the great firewall of China is how much of the work involved is actually distributed outside of the official internet police. Yes, there have been stories about the 30,000 people hired to police the internet, but recent stories have shown how a lot of the effectiveness may come from a more distributed nature. A few weeks ago, for example, a story came out talking about how the government has basically told ISPs that they had better ban the bad stuff, or they’d get punished — and that has resulted in the ISPs simply guessing about what should be banned — and erring on the side of banning more, rather than less, to avoid punishment. A new story highlights even more of how the system works (while also pegging the number of Internet police employed in China at 50,000, rather than 30,000), talking about a university that employs 500 students to act as online moderators. While the role does include hunting down “bad” content for deletion, the more important part is trying to start, maintain and guide discussions around “nice” topics. Professors and administrators suggest to these students topics they might want to talk about (an example given is “what actors make the best role models?”) — and the students post those discussions online. They also take part in other discussions, always trying to keep the topic on “good” content, or moving the conversation in that direction should it stray. Of course, none of these students reveal that they’re part of the official, student-run, internet monitoring group. What may be most interesting, though, is the response from other students — who can’t believe how many students are involved in the monitoring/guided conversation role, along with others who think it’s laughable that the University and the government think they can control the internet: “If you’re not allowed to talk here you just go to another place to talk, and there are countless places for your opinions. It’s easy to bypass the firewalls, and anybody who spends a little time researching it can figure it out.” And, of course, that’s going to keep getting easier, as new tools show up.

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Comments on “Complementing Online Censorship With Peer Pressure And Happy Topics”

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Michael says:

"... anybody who spends a little time researching

And how does someone do this research? The internet? And how does someone in a villiage in China find and download these new tools? Same answer?

If the government has control over network, how do you know you’re in fact “bypassing” the firewalls and reaching Canada?

Talk about honeypots…

Mousky (user link) says:

Chinese System will collapse

The reason the Chinese government is telling the ISPs to ban ‘bad’ stuff is because the current system of censorship is bound to fail. More and more Chinese will connect to the internet, meaning more and more accesses to more and more web sites, meaning the Chinese government will have to add more and more censors. At some point the system will become cumbersome and expensive. If there is any one thing that will completely change China it is the internet.

dorpus says:

Re: Chinese System will collapse

You’re making an assumption that Chinese will care whether they find out the truth or not. Everyone in China already knows that their government is corrupt and oppressive, as it has been throughout Chinese history. As long as their economy is strong, there will not be sufficient motivation to change.

The internet in the Western world is increasingly censored too, as completely open forums are rare today. Most forums are run by moderators with the power to censor stuff — I’ve had posts deleted or edited on here before.

Anonymous Coward says:

I worked in Shanghai and Tianjin for several months as a programmer a few years ago and let me assure you, Freedom of Thought, Expression, and Commerce are alive and well and very very vibrant at the local level.

The energy coming from the local common people cannot be crushed or even regulated by ANY government, theirs or ours. The global tsunami of the chinese common man is coming.

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