March 26, 2007
China internet censorship myths

Two articles from Internet Censorship Explorer on the reality and myths behind the Great Firewall: Why Exaggerate? and 30,000 Internet police in China myth, please not again!

(via ESWN)

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:24
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November 16, 2006
Putting the 'Sin' in Xinhua

Xinhua editors seem to be loving the Britney - Federline breakup. Because they not only wrote this article about the sex tape Kevin Federline has apparently made available between him and his ex, but they must have broken some Chinese Internet porn regulations by visiting the very definitely NSFW site Pornotube to do the research for the article.

Hands mockingly on hips (my own hips, that is): What is the world coming to?

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[boomerang] Posted by HK Dave at 20:51
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April 29, 2006
China's internet censorship

The Economist has a long article on China and the internet, and it doesn't require a subscription: The party, the people and the power of cyber-talk. It is a good summary of China's battles to censor the internet and contain free expression by both the internet and the mobile phone. It ends on an optimistic note:

But the market is likely to prevail over restrictions. Limiting phone-card sales to just a few shops with the ability to process registration requirements would be a blow to mobile-phone companies and huge numbers of private vendors who thrive on such business. It is hard to see how it could be enforced any more rigorously than, say, China's ban on the unauthorised reception of satellite signals. Illegal sales of satellite dishes and cable services offering uncensored foreign satellite channels are big underground businesses in urban China.

China's news portals, in their competition for traffic, will continue to test the limits of official tolerance. And in a competitive market few internet-café operators pay attention to government requirements that users' identities should be registered. An hour on a broadband connection in an internet café in a small town can cost as little as one yuan—about 13 cents.

Research by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences suggests the scale of the government's task. Over 20% of people surveyed in five Chinese cities last year said the internet had increased their contacts with others who shared their political interests—a far higher proportion than found in a similar survey conducted in America (8.1%) by collaborators in the investigation. Nearly half of the respondents said going online increased their contacts with people who shared their hobbies, compared with less than 20% in the United States (networked role-playing games, growing fast in popularity in China, may partly account for this). And nearly 63% agreed that the internet gave them greater opportunities to criticise the government.

“China is changing, it's improving,” says Jack Ma, head of Alibaba, which last year took over the running of Yahoo!'s Chinese operations—for, despite an early start in China, Yahoo! has been elbowed aside by domestic rivals. “Ten years ago, 20 years ago, in Chairman Mao's time, if we came here to talk about these things [government censorship],” he begins. Then he puts an imaginary pistol to his head and, with a grin, fires it. That, of course, was when power just grew out of the barrel of a gun. Now it also grows out of the infinite, albeit virtual, barrels of the internet.

One thing that crops up is again this idea that China employs 30,000 internet censors, on top of the many hundreds or even thousands more that the portals employ to self-censor. Assuming each government employed censor costs 10,000 yuan a month in wages and technology support costs (I welcome discussion if that number is too high or low) that makes the effort a 300 million yuan per month cost, or about US$450 million a year.

Are they getting value for money?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:37
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» The Zen Guide to the Wired World links with: China and internet censorship
» Government Rules links with: Government Rules

March 21, 2006
Chinese blogger locked up
In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Martin Niemoller

Rebecca MacKinnon explains the story of Hao Wu, blogger at the popular Beijing or Bust and an editor at Global Voices Online. Read Rebecca's detailed explanation of what's going, although as usual the details are not clear. Perhaps with a build-up of pressure this can be turned into an issue ahead of President Hu's visit to America in late April.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:05
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March 06, 2006
Bloviating Chinese bloggers

It's easy to deride the current NPC and CPPCC sessions going on in Beijing as a token going through the motions exercise, or in the words of Shakespeare, "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." That doesn't stop the newspapers devoting pages and pages to coverage of the non-event. Indeed some would argue the large volume of hot air being expended has parallels with blogging. So what better than to bring together a useless parliament with the web's pre-eminent form of communication:

Tang Weihong, who is in charge of the website, cn, which hosts the deputies' blog sites, said all NPC deputies and members of the National Committee of the CPPCC, China's top political advisory body, are free to open blog sites with the website...So far, eight NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members have opened blogs on the website, administered by the People's Daily...

To ensure blog sites serve as a platform for individuals to express personal views freely, lawmakers have urged a better legal environment for the management of blog sites to prevent vituperations in the virtual world from extending to people's daily life and to protect citizens' privacy.

In case you couldn't guess, that's from the China Daily (and clearly someone's been using the thesaurus for vituperation!). It seems odd that unelected politicians feel a need to communicate with the public. It's certainly something that hasn't been tried before. It can only be a matter of days before someone sets up spoof blogs for the President and the Premier.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 08:31
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February 28, 2006
Wooly thinking Part 2

Liu Kin-ming of The Standard goes to Congress's hearings on American companies and China's internet and comes out angry. So angry as to make no sense. The upshot of the opinion piece is that America's technology firms are evil for obeying China's laws because China isn't the rule of law but rule by law. How defying these laws helps improves matters is left unanswered. Later, there is this:

It's really infuriating to see these companies, which have prospered in an environment only because of the principles enshrined in a constitution adopted in 1787 and the functioning of the greatest democracy, to compare China to the United States. To suggest what they're facing in China is no different than what they may face in their own country, the companies' logic smacks of the kind of moral equivalence which is prevalent in anti-American crowds.
In terms of bows, this is an extremely long one. The tech companies were pointing out that even the United States has laws it expects companies operating there to comply with. Clearly China is no USA, but is ignoring the demands of police in China easier than those in the USA because of that? If a company goes into a country, it must follow that country's laws. And if a company ignores a growing market such as China they are breaching their duty to their shareholders, a legally enforceable fidicuiary duty to manage the company in the best interests of its owners.

The rest of the opinion piece slams the various questioners, such as:

Some Democrats were trying to lessen the guilt of the Internet companies. Adam Smith, from the state where Microsoft is based, asked: "Let's assume for a moment that no US tech company does business in China. Does it get better? Is it less repressive? Does China move forward? I don't think so."
Apparently the views of duly elected representatives from Washington state don't matter as much as those from elsewhere. Yet this is the most crucial question in the debate. It's a shame the article doesn't even try and address it. Will China's home grown internet and technology companies be held to the same standards and criticisms? Is China better or worse off thanks to these companies and their operations in China? Do you see the world in black and white or in shades of gray? Is an absolute ideal better than pragmatism? The problem with doing what's right is that what's right differs between people, cultures and countries.

I wonder if Congress will ever call up some Chinese internet users for their views?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:05
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February 22, 2006
The intimidation

The problem in giving up to despots is that you know the beginning but not the end.

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[boomerang] Posted by Enzo at 22:36
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February 09, 2006
Censor this

Two contrasting articles on the policing of China's internet.

Frontpage magazine interviews author Ethan Gutmann, who wrote Losing the New China: a Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal. Gutmann tells us why he was right all along and how evil all the various IT companies doing business with China's government are (it's certainly not Philip Morris after the newly announced ban on new cigarette factories in the world's tar stick capital).

The other, more interesting, article is a translation by ESWN of a day in the life of a Chinese internet policewoman.

Compare and contrast the reality and the bombast.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:17
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January 31, 2006
China, Google, evil and hysteria

I was going to add my $0.02 on the hysteria, which is much ado about nothing. But John C. Dvorak pretty much summed up my thoughts already:

So Google goes into China to do business and goes along with the Chinese program of censorship already accepted by Yahoo!, MSN, and others. If a company wants to do business in China, such acceptance is part of the ground rules. An outcry immediately ensues. Apparently Google should tell China to stuff it and stay out, or stay in but refuse to censor anything.

This is one of the funniest debates I've ever seen, and I can only blame Google for the controversy. It's the supposed company motto, "Do no evil," that is the crux of the problem...the company has this motto as an albatross around its neck. Any false move or normal Silicon Valley business practice will be highlighted and the "Do no evil" motto will be thrown in the face of the executives...Indeed, the comment does make it sound as if Google is somehow better than everyone else because of this supposed policy. Holier than thou. It's annoying. So the China thing comes along and boom, the evil hits the fan.

Now what can Google do about this? First of all, I don't think this really affects anything except the company principals, who have to live with never-ending ragging and finger-pointing and the "hypocrite!" moniker. Perhaps some professional damage control will help. The company is clueless about that, and that, too, could be perceived as evil.

Or perhaps they can do what I suspect they'll do. Go into China promising to abide by government censorship and let the Chinese themselves figure out how to bypass the mechanism. Chinese computer users are not idiots.

Problem solved.

The crux of this "debate" is simple: do you see the world in terms of black and white, or in shades of gray? It is better that Chinese internet users have another search engine to use, especially one that allows creative users to access information they might not otherwise find. If those ranting about Google's actions would think about the viewpoint of Chinese internet users for a minute, they may realise that Google might be helping to undo the "evil" of Chinese internet censorship.

Usually it's better to work to change systems from within, evil or not.

Other reading

Catching up on my reading, I note Will is praising Google in China and Danwei hails Google's small stand against Chinese censorship. FH points out how Google in China differs to Yahoo and MSN in some important ways. Shanghaiist also springs to Google's defence, and has a handy list of links to other posts on the topic. Anyone noticing how most of the China based blogs are backing Google? Joel sees the gaps in China's firewall and asks a great question.

On the other hand, Asiapundit is taking Google to task, but not for the obvious reasons. Check out the sample of search results. Billdue also notes how little money is at stake for Google in China.

Brad DeLong notes Google's filter only works if you can spell.

Updated 2/1

Also check out Matthew Stinson's extensive critique of Google's critics.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:15
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December 30, 2005
Shut down Xinhua, China

China winning war on Internet pornography, proclaims the China Daily. Almost 600 sites have been shut by the end of November. But all is not well in Pleasantville:

"Due to the specialized nature of Internet technology, there are still some places where pornography exists," he added. "Harmful information on overseas sites can still be transmitted internally, and a minority of people try to use the Web to carry out illegal activities."
To help the censors, I've found one website they might like to take a look at...


A couple of samplers:

1. Luring Bikini girls in movies.

2. Jennifer Lopez on the beach.

3. Anything from the "Entertainment" section of the website.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 15:44
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October 08, 2005
China hates spam

Controlling the internet is one thing. Controlling spam is another. But China's going to try:

China has ordered telcos to purge spam SMSes of smut and other "unhealthy" influences, including "superstitious content" like fortune telling. The Ministry of Information Industry made the pronouncement today on its website which declared: "Recently, there has been a lot of dirt hidden in the telecommunication networks. The situation is serious."
If China really wanted to make its 30,000 internet cesnors do good works for mankind, the government could set the censors loose on China's rampant spam industry. Given everything else has failed to stop spam, let's give authoritarianism a go.

While we're at it, does anyone regulate Hong Kong's random mobile calls or message at any hour of the day or night? If not, can we ask China to do it? Please.

On a completely unrelated note, Hong Kong's property developers learn how to stuff ballot boxes, albeit not very well. Here's a hint - at least try to make each form look a little different.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 11:44
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September 26, 2005
All the news that's fit to print (with Chinese characteristics)

Xinhua has announced new regulations for online news as part of China's ongoing clampdown on the net. Inevitably Mainland bloggers will be considered part of this regulation. Xinhua's report begins:

Online news sites that publish stories containing fabricated information, pornography, gambling or violence are facing severe punishments or even shutdown.
Skinhua should be careful. And there's a state-owned irony alert in effect.

Other reading

Richard reflects on Hu's promises of reform and transperency with the new reality.
Martyn notes this is the latest in tightening censorship in recent years.
Fons says this may be non-news being distorted.
Howard French: with economic reforms come greater press restrictions.
Dan Drezner asks spammers to help the CCP.
Jack Risko says China is a house divided against itself and makes a comparison with 1858 America.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:12
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» Glutter(.org) links with: Cyberdissident Shi Tao is not a Decapitating Murderer: Why Yahoo! Should have been raked over with Hot Coals..
» Glutter(.org) links with: News: The New Rules Against Internet "Subversion" in China

March 02, 2005
China internet censorship

Two items on China's internet censorship efforts. The leadup to the NPC and CPPCC sessions is also crackdown on internet season. First the SCMP reports:

China on Tuesday said it would toughen its already rigid censorship of the Internet during its annual parliamentary session to keep at bay those with "ulterior motives". The Xinhua news agency said there would be strict 24-hour monitoring of internet chat rooms and forums of major Chinese portals by "security guards".
Shanghai authorities are threatening to revoke the licence of a lawyer who has defended a number of activists in high-profile cases after he posted essays critical of the mainland's legal system on overseas websites...The Shanghai Bureau of Justice will hold a disciplinary hearing on Friday to determine how to punish Guo Guoting after accusing him of "defiling and slandering" the Communist Party and state government.
More on this at CDN.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 10:43
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