Top Academic Publisher Kowtows To China: Censors Thousands Of Papers, Denies It Is Censorship

from the comments-that-insult-our-intelligence dept

It’s no secret that the Chinese authorities wish to have control over every aspect of life in China, including what people say and do online. Here they are laying down what academic papers people can read, as reported by a new story in the New York Times:

One of the world’s largest academic publishers was criticized on Wednesday for bowing to pressure from the Chinese government to block access to hundreds of articles on its Chinese website.

Springer Nature, whose publications include Nature and Scientific American, acknowledged that at the government’s request, it had removed articles from its mainland site that touch on topics the ruling Communist Party considers sensitive, including Taiwan, Tibet, human rights and elite politics.

The publisher defended its decision, saying that only 1 percent of its content was inaccessible in mainland China.

And if you think that its comment is ridiculous — “only” one percent is over 7000 articles — wait till you read what Springer said in its official statement on the move, reported by the Fresno Bee:

“This action is deeply regrettable but has been taken to prevent a much greater impact on our customers and authors and is in compliance with our published policy,” the statement said. “This is not editorial censorship and does not affect the content we publish or make accessible elsewhere in the world.”

According to Springer, it is not really censoring articles in China, because people outside can still read them. That insults both Chinese researchers, whom Springer clearly thinks don’t count, and our intelligence.

What makes Springer’s pusillanimity even more reprehensible is that another leading academic publisher was also told to censor articles in China, but took a different course of action. Back in August, Cambridge University Press (CUP) was ordered by the Chinese authorities to censor 300 articles from its journal China Quarterly. Initially, like Springer, it complied, but came to its senses a couple of days later:

It said the academic leadership of the university had reviewed the publisher’s decision and agreed to reinstate the blocked content with immediate effect to “uphold the principle of academic freedom on which the university?s work is founded”.

If Springer fails to do the same, researchers will be justified in concluding that, unlike CUP, it does not uphold that principle of academic freedom. In which case, they may decide to publish their future work elsewhere.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Companies: cambridge university press, springer nature

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Comments on “Top Academic Publisher Kowtows To China: Censors Thousands Of Papers, Denies It Is Censorship”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

If “degrading an individual” counted as criteria for when not to leave a comment, average_”die in a fire”_joe would have been banned a long time ago. Same for MyNameHere and his obsession with PaulT/Leigh Beadon.

This “be the better person” moral high horse is precisely why we still have to deal with spambots like out_of_the_blue clogging discussion, and why copyright trolls continue to plague the judicial system – because chucklenuts like you are always around to overlook their shortcomings and give them the permanent benefit of doubt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Have you seen the stuff MyNameHere has posted? You ought to check out the discussions concerning Shiva Ayyadurai. MyNameHere openly professes racy desires for those he has politically aligned himself with. No apology is required for accuracy, and certainly not for someone who treats all other people he disagrees with using such enmity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Yes, I have seen many things he has said, though to be accurate I tend to limit what I read to substantive arguments as my interests are generally associated with legal issues. With that qualifier in mind, I have found that many of his points are grounded in case law and deserve thoughtful consideration before submitting a rejoinder. Sadly, it seems to me that much of what he says on issues with which I am familiar falls prey to the message/messenger dichotomy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

You think his seeing Karl, Leigh and PaulT as monsters under the basement worshiping the cult of Wyden as substantive, thoughtful and grounded? Or his support for police officers that are trigger-happy under pressure, is that what you’re familiar with? Or his support for other trolls that support Harvey Weinstein, on the basis that Masnick criticized Weinstein?

To borrow a popular phrase from critics, “there must be more to the story”. It’s telling that Prenda-level copyright advocates would flock to each other so readily.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Slonecker’s been called out on his inaccuracies before, and he’s always keen on giving anyone who disagrees with the articles here the benefit of the doubt. “Die in a fire” from average_joe who assumes that everyone else is a pirate is kosher with Slonecker, but if you gently insinuate that he’s incorrect he’ll throw a hissy, offended fit that can put Tumblr activists to shame.

Copyright advocates – can dish it out, but can’t take it. The legal equivalent of the schoolyard bully.

Anonymous Coward says:

i dont think China alone should be condemned considering that the USA courts have ordered ISPs and Search Engines to block Sci-Hub and the release of ‘Acedemic Papers’ for free. all have now been stopped completely, giving back the ability for various organisations to carry on ripping people off, just like the rest of the ‘entertainment/information industries’! even papers that were originally released for free have been blocked by this move, so what’s the difference? what is a shame is that the USA starts this sort of shit happening by protecting industries, enabling them to remain how they were 20-30 or more years ago, stop the advancing of technology, not just with them but with other industries too and aid them to continue charging extortionate sums for products that should now be 10% of the prices charged, while also preventing anyone who legally owns a product from doing what they want with it. what these industries do is stagnate and try to keep every other in the same mind set by conning politicians and ‘encouraging’ them to bring in terrible laws to assist. disgraceful! but then the USA moans when another country, in this case China, does the exact same thing!

aerinai says:

Chinese Streisand Effect?

Yes, China can in fact ban 7,000 articles on mainland China; however, that doesn’t stop someone from compiling a list of the 7,000 articles the Chinese government has decided to ban (comparing Chinese vs. Non-Blocked versions of the site). This then draws attention to the articles they don’t want the people to know about, making political dissidents even more likely to read them.

radix (profile) says:

But it (Springer Nature) is NOT censoring articles in China, the Chinese government is. The most damning interpretation is that the mere threat of total censorship is driving the publisher to make some regrettable choices, but this is still on the government.

This site talks all the time about the chilling effects of threats (of lawsuits, mostly), and all that anger is rightly directed at the folks doing the threatening, and the legal system that allows it (one and the same, in this case), rather than the victims of the threat.

There is plenty of room for righteous anger over this, but make sure it’s directed at the correct party.

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No, this is incorrect. The Chinese government is not able to do the sort of censorship being done here. Whats happening here is that the Chinese government is requesting for censorship and Springer Nature is doing it for them.

The Chinese government doesn’t have the power to do what they want to do and Springer Nature is choosing to do it for them.

The fact that Springer Nature is cooperating here is completely on them.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Springer chose to comply with a request. Cambridge did also, but rethought their action. Springer is far bigger. If the Chinese government literally censored specific URLs for those papers, it would be another matter. One might also be a bit more generous towards Springer if it wasn’t already kind of horrible in other respects, as well.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: and??

There is an old conspiracy…
About HOW to hide the truth..
Once printed, its easier to bury it…Print alternative points/article/opinions..ALL over the place.

Even here, you can still FIND the truth in other sites..but the alternate history is printed and public..

You cant HIDE history, but you CAN bury truth..(USA has gotten pretty good at it) And there is Proof of it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Open Access

It would certainly help, but ultimately all that would really accomplish is to give the chinese government more targets to squash, to ‘protect the public from subversive ideas’ of course.

Mind, anything that makes them work to keep the people they clearly consider to be peons in need of a lord or two is good in my book, so might as well.

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