China Ramps Up Online Censorship Efforts As US Congress Gives Them Perfect Cover

from the this-is-what-we're-allowing dept

As the US seeks to set up its own "Great Firewall" by copying Chinese censorship techniques in the twin bills SOPA and PROTECT IP (PIPA), it appears that China is doing exactly as you would expect when you give a government the tools to censor the internet: it keeps ramping up the censorship. Specifically, it's requiring anyone who uses the local equivalents of Twitter, like Sina Weibo, to register with their real names, which then have to be verified by the government. Then, they're banning the posting of anything the government deems to be "harmful information."

Now, I know that every time we compare SOPA/PIPA to the Great Firewall, the defenders of those bills twist themselves into contortions to explain why it's totally different because US censorship is about "intellectual property" and Chinese censorship is about "political repression." Yeah. Ok. But if you look at what China says, of course they don't say it's about political repression -- they say it's about "harmful information." Kinda like SOPA/PIPA's focus on "rogue sites," right? It's all in how you define it, but the fact is that they're both forms of censorship, and when you open the door to that in the US, you don't want to see where it ends.

And, of course, the State Department -- despite all its rhetoric about "Internet Freedom" -- can't do a damn thing, because the second they say anything to the Chinese, the Chinese point to SOPA/PIPA and say: "Look, you consider copyright infringement to be harmful to the US. We consider people disrespecting our leaders as harmful to China. What's the difference?" And, honestly, the State Department has no credible response. This is why we've been hearing from multiple sources that many people within the State Department are quite upset about SOPA/PIPA. Not only do they undermine online security, but they undermine a multi-year effort to push for more internet freedom abroad.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2011 @ 9:51am

    China shows how that once the government gets involved at controlling something they tend to keep on giving themselves more and more power to get more control over those things. Lets explain with China.

    Step 1) China implements it's great firewall to stop people from visiting sites that oppose China's views or encourage opposition to China's government.

    Step 2) China's government inevitably screws something up, in this case a high speed train accident that killed dozens. China tries to cover up the accident and all news coverage of it completely.

    Step 3) People who were there and saw China's screw up (the train accident) post pictures and stories about it at online blogging sites outside of China's control.

    Step 4) The story turns into a lot people criticizing the Chinese government for not taking people's safety seriously enough. Some people begin to call for/warn others not to use China's public transportation they view as dangerous because of the accident China's response.

    Step 5) China gets mad, and decides it can't just block a popular blogging site, so they're better going after the bloggers, hence China's real name policy for the Internet.

    This wouldn't be the first overreaction by China. In the past few decades a few nut jobs started to send mailbombs to high ranking Chinese officials, so China's response was to force everyone to visit the local post office to send and receive even a single letter, or packages.

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