Chinese Lessons For SOPA/PIPA: The Great Firewall Of China Was Once A Way To Stop Infringement Too

from the well-look-at-that dept

There's an interesting LA Times article looking at the reaction in China to the recent SOPA/PIPA blackouts. While they (quite reasonably) point out that the level of censorship in China is much more extreme, one key point did catch my attention. Apparently, when the Great Firewall of China was first set up... Chinese officials defended it as a way to cut down on infringement:
Wen supports U.S. activists challenging the bills, saying it’s a slippery slope to lesser web access. He said China’s so-called Great Firewall, which blocks access to many foreign sites like Facebook and Twitter, was first billed as a strategy to stop piracy and pornography.

“Now it’s being abused and extended to thousands of websites,” he said.
The slippery slope to censorship starts with the insistence that the mechanism for censorship only has "the best intentions." But the reality is that once you have the infrastructure for censorship, it's only a matter of time until that censorship expands. It's just too powerful for those in control.

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  1. icon
    Richard (profile), 23 Jan 2012 @ 8:29am


    What you say is fine - provided two other things are true.

    1. The executive doesn't have ways of routeing around the judiciary.

    2. The judiciary is genuinely independent - that is not only that it is not subject to direct pressure from the government but also that there are not external pressures from corporations etc that impact equally on the judiciary as on the government and that the commonality of the social group from which both politicians and judges are drawn does not influence the judiciary away from the interests of the remainder of the population.

    In summary - as you say it is better to have an independent judiciary in theory than not - but having one in practice is better still and we do not always have that.

    This is wel exemplified by the UK situation - where politicians are eager to wrest power away from European judges and place it in the hands of UK judges. Both sets of judges are independent - but it seems that some are more independent than others - and the politicians don't like it!

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