Before I bury them below today's lengthy post, here are two quick items. If you are stuck behind someone's filtering system, in China or anywhere else in the world, check out citizenlab's guidebook in pdf. It tells you how to circumvent the restrictions. And today the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China updated its list of detentions and harassment to include incidents that have happened since the Games began.
Yesterday I described how www.cpj.org is inaccessible in some places in
China and not in others. There are gaps in
Here is a speech I gave in New Haven, Conn., in May at a conference on Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2008. I've updated some of the data and text and added some of the slides from the PowerPoint presentation:
China uses a mix of technological and regulatory tactics to
try to control the Internet and other digital platforms like e-mail and texting.
OpenNet Initiative says
That pervasive technical filtering is coupled with old-fashioned
regulations. In the five years after 1995 when
Most estimates suggest that the Chinese government has tens of thousands of people monitoring Internet activity, and the government is not shy about its efforts to control information: This February, Xinhua proudly reported that the wonderfully euphemistic National Office for Cleaning Up Pornography and Fighting Illegal Publications had removed more than 200 million "harmful" online items during 2007.
When needed, virtual Internet police--cartoon characters named Jing Jing and Cha Cha (jingcha is Chinese for "police")--pop up on screens. They appear if the discussion veers toward politically sensitive topics, or gets rantingly abusive, or even too bawdy.
Below, the pair show up on a bulletin board discussion about whether Chinese corporations have donated enough money for relief for victims of the May 12 earthquake in
But even all the filters, bureaucrats, and Jing Jings and Cha Chas have not been able to stop online violations, so President Hu Jintao periodically makes public calls to "purify" the Web, saying that the Internet threatened, among other things, the "stability of the state."
What threatens the stability of the state online? Denouncing
the president, covering prodemocracy activities, mentioning Falun Gong,
exposing corruption, reporting on the military, and even publishing photos of
sleeping representatives at the National People's Congress are off-limits
online. If such material is posted domestically, authorities will delete it. If
the postings find their way to international Web sites, far more severe action
is taken. Of the 26 journalists CPJ counts behind bars in
The Internet in China is thriving; high-speed, widespread
interconnectivity is an integral part of the government's policy of
modernization. About 265 million people are online in
How do you control the content on such a moneymaker? Sina is responsible for monitoring its sites for content the government might find objectionable, but most users and all editors know the limits so relatively few abuses have to be addressed, according to a senior Sina editor. That system of self-censorship is the backbone of the government's control of Web-based information. The government relies on service providers to filter searches, block critical Web sites, delete objectionable content, and monitor e-mail traffic. ISPs and Web site operators answer directly to government censors if a posting is deemed offensive. Too many warnings and the host is in trouble. All providers understand their responsibility and monitor their sites daily.
Hard news sites like bulletin-board systems, Web sites
associated with search engines, and online text-messaging services are required
to register as news organizations. Web sites that have not been established by
an official news outlet such as a newspaper or broadcaster are forbidden from
gathering or editing their own news or commentary. Legally, they can only
reproduce material that has passed through censors at approved media
organizations--and all media in
Bulletin boards are among the most dynamic online sites in
China. They are readily accessible and can be posted to relatively anonymously
with a minimum of technical savvy. They are a favorite for grassroots activism.
More than 70,000 civil disruptions have been reported in a year in China,
according to official estimates. That unrest stems from
E-mail monitoring is another loose brick in
UPDATED: We added images of Jing Jing and Cha Cha and a graf of context to our original post.
(Reporting from Hong Kong)
(Reporting from Hong Kong)