The Great Red Firewall

Posted on June 26, 2007 
Filed Under Uncategorized

[AFP via The Star]

A letter posted on the Internet by 400 parents of children working as slaves in brickyards was the trigger for the national press to finally report on the scandal.

The parents’ Internet posting was part of a growing phenomenon for marginalised people in China who cannot otherwise have their complaints addressed by the traditional, government-controlled press.

“The phenomenon of ‘citizen journalism’ suddenly arrived several years ago,” said Beijing-based dissident Liu Xiaobo, who was one of the student leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests.

“Since the appearance of blogs in particular, every blog is a new platform for the spread of information.”

He cited the example of a couple in Chongqing who became known as the “Stubborn Nails” in April because they refused to leave their home until they received adequate compensation from the property developer who wanted them out.

They quickly became household names in China – mainly thanks to Internet postings.

Recognising the threat of China’s growing online community, Chinese President Hu Jintao called in January for the Internet to be “purified,” and the government has since launched a number of online crackdowns.

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[via Vietnamnet.vn]

The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Culture and Information will discuss measures to control blogs since many problems associated with blogs have been reported, said an official of the Justice Ministry.

Relevant agencies have received many complaints related to blogs, for example sex blogs, unhealthy information. Chief Inspector of the Ministry of Culture and Information Vu Xuan Thanh also affirmed that there would be a joint-ministry circular issued on the control of blogs.

Currently, all blogs are free in terms of contents, except for some rules set by administrators of blog services and virtual social networks.

The administrator of Star Blog service, which hosts more than 24,000 bloggers and around 63,000 articles, asks its members to follow some rules, for example not use pornographic photos or images and not post reactionary or obscene articles, otherwise the accounts are locked immediately.

“We read all articles posted on blogs to control the contents,” said Cao Manh Tuan, managing director of Star Blog.

At Vietspace.net.vn, a social network that is running on a trial basis and has around 67,000 members and 150-200 new members each day, administrators also set some rules, such as immediately deleting articles that are not suitable to Vietnamese customs and violate laws of Vietnam. This network has members and tools to control the contents of articles posted on the website.

From Reporters Without Borders in a 2007 report:

China unquestionably continues to be the world’s most advanced country in Internet filtering. The authorities carefully monitor technological progress to ensure that no new window of free expression opens up, After initially targeting websites and chat forums, they nowadays concentrate on blogs and video exchange sites. China now has nearly 17 million bloggers. This is an enormous number, but very few of them dare to tackle sensitive issues, still less criticise government policy. Firstly, because China’s blog tools include filters that block “subversive” word strings. Secondly, because the companies operating these services, both Chinese and foreign, are pressured by the authorities to control content. They employ armies of moderators to clean up the content produced by the bloggers. Finally, in a country in which 52 people are currently in prison for expressing themselves too freely online, self-censorship is obviously in full force. Just five years ago, many people thought Chinese society and politics would be revolutionised by the Internet, a supposedly uncontrollable medium. Now, with China enjoying increasing geopolitical influence, people are wondering the opposite, whether perhaps China’s Internet model, based on censorship and surveillance, may one day be imposed on the rest of the world.

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