April 29, 2006

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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?

posted by Simon on 04.29.06 at 04:37 PM in the China internet category.


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China and internet censorship
Excerpt: Following on from my post on Power to the Bloggers, some countries are taking serious note of the power of bloggers. On his blog Simonworld, SE Asia commentator, Simon has posted an entry on internet censorship in China. You can
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The Second Amendment means nothing outside of hunting.

Our forefathers gave us that right to fend off a military takeover in the U.S. - by
either the left or the right.

Apparently, since most gun owners are far right they didn't see fit to fight the far
right takeover so here we are. On the verge of martial law.

You'll imitate your German counterparts of 70 years ago. You'll allow them to take away
any weapon that gives you parity with the military. You know you barely made a peep when
the Brady Bill took away your assault rifles, which is what you'll need to effectively
combat troops.

What a bunch of cowards, and what a sore disgrace you are to our forefathers who gave
their blood for the likes of you.

In Jesus' Glorious and Holy name,
Dean Berry -- Real American

http://www.deanberryministries DOT org


posted by: DEAN BERRY -- REAL AMERICAN on 04.29.06 at 05:34 PM [permalink]

Dunno how the above paranoid gun-suckin' "Real Amuurican's" spam above contributes to discussion about Internet monitoring on the mainland, so I'll ignore it and just say re: salary for Internet monitoring that my SZ girlfriend has a friend works as one and she says he makes between 3-4,000 yuan/mo.
He's also told her it's immensely boring but allows him plenty of time to pursue his real passion: World of Warcraft.

posted by: Justin on 04.30.06 at 09:27 AM [permalink]

Justin - methinks there could be an interview in there somewhere.

posted by: Simon on 04.30.06 at 11:09 AM [permalink]

It's my understanding that Chinese internet monitors do not read English-language content. Is that true?

posted by: Andrew on 05.01.06 at 01:00 AM [permalink]

It seems to be that as much as China wants to censure content, a lot will still be able to get through. This is a very good thing, especially considering how controlled their media is. I'm sure users can get at a variety of smaller political blogs to find out what's really going on.

posted by: PoliticalCritic on 05.01.06 at 01:08 AM [permalink]

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posted by: Increase Traffic on 05.10.06 at 06:51 PM [permalink]

The situation in China is definitely improving. Yet I don't think internet censorship doesn't have its positive impact. It could at least minimise the social unsettling in China. There's so many people there, a rumour spread through the internet could easily spark a riot and this is the last thing we want to see.

Of course, the government should take measures to improve and reduce censorship one step at a time.

posted by: China101 on 05.19.06 at 08:45 AM [permalink]

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