China, Once Again, Using Censorship Elsewhere To Justify Oppressive Great Firewall Of China
from the well,-duh dept
Back during both the ACTA fight and the SOPA fight, we pointed out that any move by Western countries to do even minor censorship would be used by the Chinese to justify its own much more oppressive censorship via the Great Firewall of China. The fact that the MPAA held up China as the model of a country that does censorship right played right into the typical Chinese justifications for its internet regime. In fact, Chinese officials have been quoted claiming that they really first put the Great Firewall in place to stop copyright infringement, but have since expanded it to better protect the public.
The latest, as pointed out by Dan Tobias in our comments, is that the official newspaper of the Chinese government is now pointing to various attempts in the west to “block” content to explain that internet censorship is in the public’s interest (they refer to it as “web regulation” but you know what they mean). They cite a variety of cases that we’ve spoken about as heading down the slippery slope to justify their own censorship. They mention Germany’s plan to try to tax Google for fair use-level snippets, Facebook’s new efforts to censor speech they don’t like, the UK’s new hysteria blaming Google for child porn, and even the Turkish Prime Minister blaming Twitter for social unrest.
The new rule for Google Search is said to be a milestone that marks Germany’s first efforts to regulate its Internet services.
Many countries are trying to regulate their Internet services. Under pressure from public opinion, many well-known websites are becoming more self-disciplined. For example, Facebook has started to provide training for its website regulators to help identify and delete inappropriate remarks. In Turkey, where chaos and turmoil are running rampant, the Turkish government criticized social media as the top threat. Similar denouncements have also been heard from the British Parliament.
The op-ed then argues that these are all just different ways of recognizing that free speech online is dangerous and needs to be regulated for the public benefit.
Finding ways to take concrete regulatory approaches that appeal to the broad masses is what really matters. Considering the complexity of public opinion, this is the most difficult part of Internet regulation. People are starting to understand the necessity of Internet regulation when they are publicly informed of some major measures and actions in advance, thanks to more transparent approaches.
Most Chinese are looking forward to free speech on the Internet, while at the same time are expecting an orderly social environment. People already understand that free speech can not go against social order. Internet regulation is not only an embodiment of the government’s will, but is also laid on the foundation of the public interest.
Through the Internet, Chinese people are becoming more knowledgeable about democracy and freedom. Although this virtual community has bred some political and moral traps, Internet regulation has to be carried out until those spreading adverse remarks fear the strength of the public interest.
Note, of course, that this was presented on the very same day that the government sought to censor any mention, no matter how oblique, of the Tiananmen Square uprising.
When you start down the slippery slope of censorship, even if the intentions are good, you have to realize that others will use it to justify any and all oppressive censorship as well, in the name of “the public interest.”