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Censorship Your Rights Online

Is China's Control of the Internet Slipping? 422

Posted by timothy
from the just-like-star-systems dept.
Garp writes "According to the BBC news site the Chinese governments grip on the internet is slipping. Ever since they allowed use of the internet, the Chinese have been monitoring the information that has been flowing (jokingly referred to as the great fire-wall of china), in an attempt to ensure 'bad' philosophies don't infect their people. However, the internet is having a much more profound affect, out of the control of the government ..."
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Is China's Control of the Internet Slipping?

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  • The chinese internet (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hellkitten (574820) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @08:57AM (#3651713)

    Well they let the cat out of the bag and now they can't get it back in. Politicians underestimate the possibilities of the internet, nothing new here.

    The interesting idea is that AFAIK China has the largest population on earth, what will happen to the internet once the chinese politicians give up and let them roam free? Even if just a small part is on the net we will begin to see the influence of chinese culture. And what about language? Today english is de dominant language in the internet, but there is an awful lot of chinese speakin people that might get connected. Time for a new language class anyone?

  • by cperciva (102828) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:01AM (#3651734) Homepage
    This reinforces a fundamental fact of human behaviour: People generally ignore laws. If there is a policeman standing at their elbow, they'll obey the law, but as soon as the policeman is not obviously present, they'll go back to doing whatever they feel is "right".

    When it comes to mp3 trading, usage of illicit drugs, or discussing Chinese politics, there are three simple options in the hands of the government:
    1. Allow them,
    2. Put police everywhere (think 1984), or
    3. Change how people think about such activities (public anti-drinking-and-driving campaigns are a good example of this).

    The Great Firewall of China might help the government identify (and eliminate) any rebellious leaders, but it won't stop the spread of ideas and ideals.
  • internet censorship (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Una (122314) <erh@1[ ]se2.net ['0ba' in gap]> on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:05AM (#3651762)
    Well, my guess as to why China is having a hard time censoring their citizens viewing, is simply that of manpower.
    With how fast content is created and updated on the internet, even with active filtering software, would require a fulltime staff of tens of thousands of people just to find blockable content.

    I imagine the Chinese goverment is slacking in their efforts to completely block "objectional" content, just by not throwing enough manpower at it.
    Now, I in no way condone censoring any information, but lets get real...
    If the chinese goverment wants to control what their citizens think, their going to.

    Now, what needs to be done, is some of that new-fangled "electronic warfare". :)
    What I mean by that, is for people who care about censorship to setup free speech propoganda websites wherever they can.
    There going to have to be diffrent, so the automatic software doesnt automatically filter it.
    And its going to need to have real information.

    If you care about billions of people being censored, stand up, and do something about it.
    If not, sit down, go back to whatever you were doing, and forget that anything ever happened.

    Anyways, thats just my take on things.
    -Una
  • by ekidder (121911) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:07AM (#3651766) Homepage
    One of my favorite quotes, from GURPS Illuminati (unfortunately, a roommate borrowed the book, so no exact references) goes: "Sure, the government lies and the media lies, but in a democracy, they're /different/ lies."
  • by gelfling (6534) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:07AM (#3651774) Homepage Journal
    In the West, about 90% of all internet activity goes through 9 portals which are controlled by a tiny cadre of huge media conglomerates, each run nearly as the singular expression of one person's ego.

    We will not be forced into oppression, but seduced by it and ultimately the internet will become a weapon of tyranny.
  • Ironically... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cswiii (11061) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:10AM (#3651791)
    ...this BBC article was posted one day after the thirteenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
  • by gartogg (317481) <sdaman.mindspring@om@tld> on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:13AM (#3651800) Homepage Journal
    A history teacher I once took some courses from in High School (Military History and US History) subscribed to an interesting theory; The fall of Russian Communism resulted from McDonalds.

    The fact that there were McDonalds restaurants in Russia fed the public there the image of how Americans live, and with that as a model, it became increasingly obvious that Communism was failing to fulfill it's mission of Utopia. In 1984, Orwell realized that as long as the government asserted that everything was improving, people would not be too inquisitiveabout the subject. In Russia, this became impossible, and the people lost faith in their government.

    In China, it seems as though a similar evolution is occuring; The alter-ego of Soviet Commuism, Chinese Communism, is being exposed to it's antithesis. Russian Communism focused, as I understand, mainly on supression and communitization of materialism, but was then faced with the holy grail of materialism, McDonalds. Chinese Communism, now that they have seen how materialism works, focuses on supression of intellectualism among their masses, and is now faced with intellectualism's holy grail, the internet, which allows the masses to see the intellectual side of Democracy.

    Obviously, the Orwellian Prophecy has come partially true in this part of the world.

    "Inside an imposing building in Beijing is the Ministry of Information Industry, where a hi-tech police force keeps watch over the internet 24 hours a day. Its job is to keep ordinary Chinese people from accessing unhealthy information. That could be anything from Playboy to the BBC." -BBC News, China Loses Grip on Internet.

    "The Misistry of Truth -- Minitrue, in Newspeak -- was startlingly different form any other building in sight. It was an enormous Pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, three hundred meters into the air... [it] concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts, [anything from Playboy to the BBC]" -1984, by George Orwell.

    The only difference between Oceania and China is an external one, and it is essential. China has no external enemy to pour material into to prevent it's citizen's rising standard of living. Instead, it has Europe, the United States, and many other regions of the world that have accepted democracy and capitalism.

  • by hype7 (239530) <u3295110NO@SPAManu.edu.au> on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:40AM (#3651961) Journal
    A history teacher I once took some courses from in High School (Military History and US History) subscribed to an interesting theory; The fall of Russian Communism resulted from McDonalds.


    The fact that there were McDonalds restaurants in Russia fed the public there the image of how Americans live, and with that as a model, it became increasingly obvious that Communism was failing to fulfill it's mission of Utopia. In 1984, Orwell realized that as long as the government asserted that everything was improving, people would not be too inquisitiveabout the subject. In Russia, this became impossible, and the people lost faith in their government.

    In China, it seems as though a similar evolution is occuring; The alter-ego of Soviet Commuism, Chinese Communism, is being exposed to it's antithesis. Russian Communism focused, as I understand, mainly on supression and communitization of materialism, but was then faced with the holy grail of materialism, McDonalds. Chinese Communism, now that they have seen how materialism works, focuses on supression of intellectualism among their masses, and is now faced with intellectualism's holy grail, the internet, which allows the masses to see the intellectual side of Democracy.


    The theory you refer to is otherwise known as The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention [aber.ac.uk]. And before you mod me +1 funny, I'm being serious - it was first espoused by Thomas Friedman in his book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree [lexusandtheolivetree.com]. It's an excellent read, a great perspective on globalisation and its differing effects on various parts of the world.

    -- james
  • by rhadamanthus (200665) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @10:04AM (#3652099)
    To quote Lawrence Lessig, "If the media companies are owned by a handful of companies, each basically holding the very same ideals, how much diversity can we expect in the production of media content? How critical can we believe these media will be? How committed to testing the status quo is this form of organization--itself so dependent on the status quo--likely to be?"

    Or if you don't think this happens, even Newt Gingrich appealed to it in a 1997 address to the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, when he said that business leaders and advertisers "ought to take more direct command of the newsroom."

    Scary.

    -----rhad

  • Re:The moral is... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by junkgrep (266550) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @10:21AM (#3652184)
    I dunno: I haven't seen any posts here, or anywhere, from people in China and Cuba. Granted, there's the language barrier, but you'd hope that there were at least some english speaking in-China Linux geeks surfing, or with translators, that would have something to say on such a germaine subject. Can we confirm that people in China can even READ this part of slashdot?
  • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @10:32AM (#3652244) Homepage
    Perhaps this will help in the human rights debates that have been rampant in China over the past years.

    The point which is missed in 90% of the posts on this board is that the information most damaging to the communist party comes from inside china, not from outside. External events have a much lesser effect on a country the size of China than internal.

    The Soviet Union did not fall because of Reagan, or any policy of the West. It fell because its own people rejected it, first in the satelite states, finally in Moscow. Solidarity, the Polish trade union brought down the USSR in the end. The Berlin wall fell when a bunch of students attacket it en masse and the guards in the watch towers disobeyed orders and refused to shoot.

    The issues in China are complex, they are no longer a Stalinist communist regime, they are not democratic, they have adopted a 19th century model of capitalism in which the actual role of the state is to protect the oligarchs and exploiters. The gerantocracy that runs the country is largely in its 80s and their principle driving principle is fear. In particular fear of a return to the days of the cultural revolution of Mao and fear of partition into separate states that are dominated by foreign powers as happened at the turn of the century when the US, Germany, France, Britain and Japan each carved out spheres of influence.

    China is rapidly industrializing and output is rising fast. Economically China will be one of the maor powers within ten years. Already the Chineese middle class is larger than the US middle class. As with India, China is a first world power whose strength is obscured by a vast third world hinterland.

    Change is comming, but it isn't going to be driven by external forces. In fact external forces are more likely to be counterproductive. The critical mistake made by the Tiannanen Square protesters was building the statue of liberty. Up to that point the communist party was affraid to crush the protests, in particular they were affraid that the soldiers would refuse to fire. However the statue of liberty was a symbol of an alliance with a foreign power and the troops could be sent in to crush that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 06, 2002 @10:34AM (#3652254)
    You guys seem to be under the impression that the Chinese block news.bbc.co.uk and CNN.com.
    They dont exactly do that. They block them occassionally - sometimes for months at a time.

    Now I cant get to the BBC. Last week I could. Now I can get to CNN. (I am in China).

    I think they do this to make the BBC and CNN a difficult to get to news source - while the peoples daily is always online...

    Also most of the people here dont give a damn about democracy - go into one of the many internet bars round here - everyone is playing Counter Strike or using ICQ in Chinese...

    I am in China (Shandong) and am posting as an AC as I forgot my username and password... Also it might be a bit unwise to post my name - tho I would if I hadnt forgot my username and password.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 06, 2002 @10:34AM (#3652255)
    he wrote. "Thanks to all of those who care about democracy in China. Goodbye."

    Of course the exact same thing thing happened to the "resistance" movement's radio station in Guatamala in the 1950s.

    Turns out it was all staged.

    Oh-- it also turns out that there was no resistance radio station-- it was the CIA flying around broadcasting over head.

    Trust no one. You have no friends. The Computer is your friend. You can trust the Big Computer.
  • by nemesisj (305482) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @10:36AM (#3652273) Homepage
    "We all know that China's news institutions (government controlled) will soon be ignored. The Chinese government won't always be able to restrict their users from reading information from the BBC, CNN, and other institutions."

    Why do we all know this? If someone came up to you and told you that everything you had ever learned and been taught all your life was a lie (or at least a very highly distorted version of the truth) and that your primary sources of information were largely innacurate, would you believe them? Would you be willing to turn your whole outlook on life upside down? While you might if you were particularly independent, the average Chinese citizen won't. From living in China, I'd say that close to 90% of the young intellectuals, who have known about the Tiananmen Square incident and other debacles still trust the government news. They figure that the western news sources are just as biased, and while they are a definite curiosity, western news is just as unreliable as communist news. They have been taught all their lives that a free press is unreliable and prone to error, and they believe it.

    Also, why can't they control the internet? They own all the infrastructure, the ISPs, the cable, everything. You're not very informed to think they just can't turn off whatever they want. They block all of geocities and angelfire, and often block cnn and other news sites when some issue that is sensitive to the government is happening. Don't underestimate what a determined dictatorship can accomplish, especially when they hold all of the cards.

    The really funny thing is that most Chinese ISPs and websites self censor their content, out of fear that they'll be totally shut down. The flow of information in China is not out of control, and it won't be for a long time.
  • by Cmdr Taco (luser) (578089) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @11:15AM (#3652515)
    That can't do it now, unless they also block google.com.

    A savvy Chinese citizen can simply view google's cached copy. They've got to know in general what they're looking for, but try this example:

    A CNN story about Falun Gong here [216.239.35.100]

  • by pmc (40532) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @11:41AM (#3652725) Homepage
    I had a friend who went there a cupple years ago and he was traveling in a group. They werent suposed to go traveling alone, and they had a government official with them when the group went out.

    Hmm - not at all what I experienced. I went to Beijing about 10 years ago - also as part of a group. There were no restictions at all placed on us - there was an official interpreter, but no compulsion to go on the organised tours. I spent a lot of time wandering about. Things were a little tense as I was over there near the anniversary of Tiannemen Square (which I visited on the actual anniversary - that place is huge: jokingly I said beforehand it would take 1/2 hour to walk across it. This was an underestimate.), and there were a fair number of police wandering about. I even saw some dissidents being arrested (outside of the official government residence near Tianemmen Square).

    One evening (armed with my trusty phrase book) I wandered into one of the large blocks that form neighbourhoods (these are 3 by 3 smaller blocks, and there seems to be some sort of district zoning thing going on). These are definitely not tourist places. In these I found a small resturant and proffering my phrase book opened to the resturant page I pointed at "What do you recommend?" and got what was easily the best meal I had there - and the cheapest by a mile.

    Interestingly there was absolutly no problems at all in getting into China - send passport details to tour operator. The provided a group visa and we - literally - formed a line in the order of the names on the visa and walked through immigration. The whole thing took about 5 minutes. No problem getting out. This was the only place on the whole trip that photography was forbidden - in common with almost ever other immigration hall I've ever been in.

    Admittedly I didn't go outside Beijing except to the Great Wall (although some others did) so things may well be diferent elsewhere. The only other place where there was a bit of an atmosphere was on the upper floors of the English Language Bookshop where the pirated software is reputedly sold.

    So, yes, China is in some ways a closed nation, but nowhere near as controlled as you are making out. It is also a very odd place - when you first arrive at the western hotel (which looks like a hilton anywhere else in the world) and get in the taxi (whose drivers are nutters) and see the McDonalds, and Coke, and bright, neon, shop signs, it all seems comfortably familiar. OK - they don't speak the language but I'm from Europe - I'm used to not speaking the language when I'm on holiday. After a few days, however, you'll notice something that makes you realise how different this place is - for me it was realising that there were no advertisments.
  • by leereyno (32197) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @12:34PM (#3653082) Homepage Journal
    The vast majority of Chineese people live in rural areas and are utterly uneducated. Only a relative few live in or near cities and have any sort of education or access to the internet in the first place. This may slowly change of course, but for the short term at least China's ability to overshadow the internet is basically non-existant.

    Lee
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 06, 2002 @12:41PM (#3653117)
    stage4 has published [stage4.co.uk] the latest section of their interview with 70's hacker and now security expert Captain Crunch. He talks about the shortcomings of any government trying to restrict net access.

    Security expert Captain Crunch says that China's attempts to create a 'national firewall' restricting it's citizens access to the internet is "like trying to put perfume on a pig - it's totally useless man! It's not gonna work...".

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