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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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  • I would say that is prolly for the better for everyone, since we will be able to reach more people with more information. Perhaps this will help in the human rights debates that have been rampant in China over the past years.
    • 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.

      • The Soviet Union did not fall because of Reagan, or any policy of the West.

        Hate to break it to you - but the ideas of the west provided a source of inspiration to the peoples of Iron Cutain.

        It's not like they revolted to become more like Saudi Arabia or eastern Africa. The revolted to become more like the west - whom they thought had a better life.

        Part of that was helped by communications - Radio Free Europe and the BBC shortwave probably helped more than we could imagine. These were funded by the west for exactly this reason - and after the revolution, afther they have served their call, both have had their funding curtailed.

        So the policy of boradcast radio did help spread our ideas - so much so that the poor blockes spent vast resources to block their signals.

        • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @01:23PM (#3653394) Homepage
          Hate to break it to you - but the ideas of the west provided a source of inspiration to the peoples of Iron Cutain.

          If it is ideas that you want to measure then remember that Karl Marx wrote Das Capital in the Reading room of the British Library.

          What you appear to be unable to grasp is that whatever was done from the outside had mush less effect than what went on on the inside. The attempt by the idiotic right to claim the credit for destroying the Soviet Union is pure self delusion. The people of Eastern Europe took their own freedom, whatever we did amounted to a small effect on the margins.

          That is why there has been little change in the example you cite - Saudi Arabia and Eastern Africa. Those areas have been exposed to Western ideas for far longer than Russia ever was, including the experience of British colonial rule.

          The BBC World Service is certainly an effective propaganda tool. I can't say the same for Voice of America which is all propaganda all the time and about as interesting to listen to as Radio Moscow was and for about the same reason.

          If you want to effect change then there are much more effective ways to do so than by puffing yourself up with self importance. The US claim to be the torchbearer of human rights is not generally accepted in the rest of the world. The practice of seggragation was only recently abolished in the south, during the cold war the US regularly conived to replace democratically elected regimes with brutal murderers who would do Washington's bidding. It is a great pity that the current administration cheered on the attempted coup in Venezuela rather than condemning it instantly as the rest of the free world did.

  • by ramdac (302865) <ramdac [at] ramdac.org> on Thursday June 06, 2002 @08:56AM (#3651705) Homepage Journal
    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.

    China's GOV has to face the music. They can't and won't control what their people see on the internet--at least not forever. As more and more people there use the internet, those people will find ways to express their views.
    • A bit further than this. China probably CAN prevent the viewing of news.bbc.co.uk and cnn.com but they'll NEVER keep up to date the block list for NGOs and other more independent and direct news sources.

      As long as there are search engines, email, and word of mouth, those who WANT to read the real story will be able to.

      This leaves those majority of the population still sucking in the dross they are fed. At the moment in the UK you can't move for people sucking up to the royal family on the TV. The mass population couldn't give two shits about them and want them gone - but the BBC pays for a big concert, a million people go along to see bands for free, and we're told its a royalist revival!

      Enough people just go along with this and decide 'hey - yeah - lets do that! royals! I love them!' because they don't form opinions, they consume them.
      • by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:09AM (#3651780) Homepage Journal
        Despite wanting to see monarchy in the UK abolished, I must disagree with you. Countless polls have shown that the people in the UK in general support monarchy and supports the royal family. Large groups of the people may want them gone, but unfortunately not the majority.
      • This is assuming that there are still independant and direct news sources on the Internet. The Powers that Be, including ICANN and the current crop of news companies, seem dead-set on trying to prevent that. Skyrocketing bandwidth costs, "cybersquatting" accusations, lack of affordable bandwidth for your ordinary citizen, gradual firewalling-off of non-corporate entities to prevent "copyright infringement"....

        In case you haven't noticed, its getting harder and harder to run a small site of any sort without resorting to buying space from an established web host. Who can and will cut you off at the first sign of trouble, be it legal or simply "high" bandwidth use due to popularity. Yes, that's right. Do a good job of news reporting and get a lot of visitors, and you'll be slapped with huge fines for your troubles.

        Its wonderful when the very companies who are most threatened by the power the Internet gives to the individual control its backbone, isn't it?

        • I dunno what market you're in but in the US market bandwidth prices are falling (thanks to Cogent, can't wait for that Chap. 11).

          Many web hosts, large and small, will charge small sites by the GB, so you can use all you want.

          I can't help but think this post came from 1999 or something. :)
          • I'm mainly looking at all the popular sites that've had to shut down or severely cripple their services due to unannounced bandwidth caps or utterly ludicrous traffic fees. This may have changed recently, as you said, due to Cogent's financial troubles, but that doesn't help all the sites that've had to shut down in the past six months when their ISPs started springing these fees (and "backpayments" for their use in the past) on them.

      • ---A bit further than this. China probably CAN prevent the viewing of news.bbc.co.uk and cnn.com but they'll NEVER keep up to date the block list for NGOs and other more independent and direct news sources.---

        You seem to be assuming that the Chinese will use an excluding system whereby they run around blocking objectionable content. But what if they used an including system, whereby they only allowed people to go to sites that they approve? So they don't need to worry about blocking new addresses: only things they've checked out and signed off on will get through.
    • 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.
    • 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]

  • 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 cybercuzco (100904) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @10:51AM (#3652379) Homepage Journal
      Today english is de dominant language in the internet, but there is an awful lot of chinese speakin people that might get connected.

      Mesa say yousa not worry so much bout speakin chinese, worry more bout speakin english

      -Jar Jar

    • by Our Man In Redmond (63094) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @11:54AM (#3652803)
      Well they let the cat out of the bag and now they can't get it back in.

      My favorite metaphor for this comes from a book by Peter S. Beagle [white-mountain.org]:

      "You ever try to put birdshit back into the bird?"
    • 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
      • 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 statement is indicative of western ignorance of modern China.

        The literacy rate in China is 81.5% [CIA WorldFactbook], which when you consider the difficulty of memorizing 10's of thousands of ideograms is pretty good. There are over 11 mil university students in China right now, which means roughly 15% of people go on to university.

        Second, agriculture represents only 15% of the chinese economy (50% industry and 35% services) [CIA WorldFactbook]. While apx. 50% of the population is still rural (far higher than in the US) that's far from "the vast majority".

        Third, in 1990, China had 102 cities with populations over 1 million [UN Statistics Division] and probably a lot more today given China's rapid urbanization (which creates a lot of problems). In fact, as many people (apx. 210 mil in 1990) live in China's "large" (1mil+) cities as in the entire United States.

        China is, of course, still relatively poor compared to the US and Western Europe. And large regions of western China are still underdeveloped. Given income levels, it is no suprise that that only a small percentage use the Internet (it's not suprising that A/C's, TV's and other modern conveniences are purchased first). But we should try to update outdated views of China as we start the 21st century.

        • This is so true. I used to hold the ignorant view of China until I went there for a vacation earlier this year.

          Mind you, I didn't ventured into the really small villages (pop less than 1000) and rural areas, but I could tell things are a lot different that what I used to perceive it as.

          I was in a fishing village in souther China with no paved roads, but they had buses with VCD videos playing. And in the same area were more Internet cafe than I'd image people could use. Sure enough when I went in there were half a dozen kids, no more than 12 years old, playing network games.

          I spent 2 hours in there checking email and reading news. I certainly didn't feel like anything was being blocked. They had 128bit I.E. browser so I was able to do my banking too.

          I could go on forever. Bottom line is that people should stop making ignorant comments about China unless they've been there.
  • by seldolivaw (179178) <me@seldo . c om> on Thursday June 06, 2002 @08:58AM (#3651719) Homepage
    I think it's really interesting that China has spent so much time and effort trying to protect its citizens from ideas from outside without realising that ideas that come from inside are just as dangerous. People who talk to each other cannot be fooled by propaganda, as the article mentions -- a mining disaster which killed 81 people was initially supressed, but when word about it spread on the 'net anyway the official newspapers ended up reporting on it.

    The logical conclusion of this is that the much-protested firewall that China has put around itself will be of no help at all in supressing dissent, as long as chat rooms and even e-mail exist.
    • by 4of12 (97621) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:06AM (#3651765) Homepage Journal

      Exactly.

      Presuming that "counter-revolutionary" thoughts always enter from the outside and could be theoretically controlled by a firewall neglects the basic fact that China is filled with enough people on the inside that can think for themselves.

      When a rational idea or a truth is communicated, it will resonate all through the inside.

      OTOH, China, like the U.S. and Russia, has a great deal of national pride. While the party in power has used that as tool for its own ends, there's nothing preventing a popular movement from incorporating "patriotism" in a way that might be unhealthy for everyone in the long term. Remember some of the causes of WWW 1!

    • I think it's really interesting that China has spent so much time and effort trying to protect its citizens from ideas from outside without realising that ideas that come from inside are just as dangerous.
      This is the more funny given that Mao Tse-Tung's communism is ALSO an idea that came from outside China...
    • All this talk about China's attempt to control content coming in, but nothing about its traffic going out, is amusing.

      China's AS's are great candidates for blocking given the hourly scans from chinanet.cn and other notorious abusers. Scans, relentless spam, and other ilk seems to be the primary product of China's information technology society (and we thought their manufacturing created garbage!).

      Then there's last week's article about China launching attacks on US Internet networks in order to "balance the world order" or such. And I want AS connectivity to China for what again?

      Snip the cables and let them spam themselves...

      *scoove*
    • You'd think if their ideology really was superior they would welcome the challenge of putting it to the test against the rest of the world, wouldn't you?

      You'd also think they'd recall something military commanders and radicals have known since there were military commanders and radicals: It's much easier to attack a fortress (or a movement, or a country, or pretty much anything) from the inside than from the outside.

      In an odd turn of events, it may someday turn out that Internet was the biggest Trojan horse of all.
  • by jukal (523582) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @08:59AM (#3651721) Journal
    Summary:
    In this paper the authors illustrate how two authoritarian regimes, China and Cuba, are maintaining control over the Internet's political impact through different combinations of reactive and proactive strategies. These cases illustrate that, contrary to assumptions, different types of authoritarian regimes may be able to control and profit from the Internet. Examining the experiences of these two countries may help to shed light on other authoritarian regimes' strategies for Internet development, as well as help to develop generalizable conclusions about the impact of the Internet on authoritarian rule.

    The whole document is here [ceip.org]
  • 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.
    • I would modify that statement slightly: people generally ignore laws that they don't like or understand.

      People don't generally ignore the laws against murder, for example. Most people agree that outlawing killing people is a good thing, and they understand why, so folks obey that law. Very few people understand why they must drive $value MPH/KPH, so they usually don't, unless there's a danger that they'll be caught.

      • Which demonstrates the vapid self-interest behind most people's moral philosophy.

        More people are killed by reckless drivers who think they have the skill/technology/brains to drive at unsafe speeds, than by murder.

        Nothing gets on my nerves more than some yahoo in a way-to-big SUV tailgating me at 80MPH simply because he has no f-ing clue about such concepts as reaction time or stopping distance.

        Of course, when his unnecessary and reckless conduct causes my death it is an "accident," while a woman who shoots her abusive husband dead in his sleep is considered a "murderer"

    • These things are true, but China is a very big country full of people who seem to readily ignore rules if they think they aren't being enforced. And with China's size, that makes governing very difficult. These facts have historically been excuses by China's leaders for their heavy-handed rule.
  • by unformed (225214) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:02AM (#3651736)
    If you have -any- way access an outside machine that is relatively in your control (ie: shell access, which can be bought for a few dollars a month) then you can get by any protection.

    Here's an article I wrote not too long ago about how to do it:
    - - - -
    Breaking Through Any Firewall or Proxy

    There's different reasons for breaking through firewalls/proxies.
    1) Get completely unfiltered access to the internet.
    2) Get unmonitored, or secure, access to the internet.
    3) Access services normally disallowed by the firewall.

    The article will demonstrate various ways to get by most implementations of firewalls/proxies. In absolutely no way am I responsible if you do anything you're not supposed to, or even supposed to, be doing. If you get caught and fired, tough shit. If you access illegal information, tough shit. If you open up a hole and somebody breaks into your computer, tough shit. I'm not responsible. (This is for the lawsuit-happy bastards out there.)

    Anyways, lets begin:

    For all methods, it is expected that you have access to a machine on the other side of the firewall, and that it has access to whatever you need.
    Your machine will be the CLIENT, and the machine on the other side of the firewall will be the TUNNEL. The accessed machine will be the SERVER.

    Furthermore, this article also assumes you a basic knowledge of your browser's configuration, installing software on your CLIENT and TUNNEL machines, and logging in via SSH.

    A Linux/Unix box is preferable for the TUNNEL, but not required by any means. The software is freely available for any system.

    1) HTTP Tunneling Through SSH
    Often, only some ports will be firewalled (80, 21, etc) for caching, filtering, and monitoring purposes. However, they leave direct access available for other ports (25, 23, etc).

    If your browser must use a proxy to access the web, but you don't require a proxy to get mail, this is probably the implementation.

    If you have direct access to non-popular ports, you can access almost any service as long as you change the port. Generaly, the main purpose of bypassing this firewall is to have unfiltered and/or unmonitored web access. The method can of course be modified to meet your needs.

    Install a proxy server (ie: tinyproxy) on the TUNNEL machine. For security purposes, set the listening port to an odd port (ie: 8999, REMOTE_PROXY_PORT) or set access rights to only localhost. Install an SSH (ie: sshd) server on the TUNNEL. For security purposes, set the listening port to an odd port. Do NOT set access rights to only localhost because you'll access the proxy through ssh.

    Install an SSH client on the CLIENT machine. Select a random port (LOCAL_PORT) and then set the browser's proxy to localhost:LOCAL_PORT.

    Run SSH with LOCAL_PORT forwarded to REMOTE_HOST:REMOTE_PROXY_PORT.
    (CLI ssh: ssh -L LOCAL_PORT:REMOTE_HOST:REMOTE_PROXY_HOST -l USERNAME REMOTE_HOST)

    Once connected and logged in, if the proxy and the tunnel are working correctly, you've got completely unfiltered web access.

    (NB: Using a SOCKS5-compliant proxy would offer an almost completely unfiltered and unmonitored connection, as long as the application supported SOCKS proxies.)

    2) SSH Tunneling Through HTTP
    Some implementations allow only HTTP access, while blocking all other ports.
    Check out Corkscrew at http://www.agroman.net/corkscrew/

    Corkscrew is a tool to allow full SSH access through a strict HTTPS session. Then through the SSH access, you can create another tunnel to allow access to all other programs.

    Conclusion)
    Hopefully this allows some of the people out there to worry a little less about getting caught doing things they're not supposed to. The reason for using SSH in both cases is because it's encrypted. In the event you are caught, at least you're only caught for breaking teh rules, there's nothing additionally criminalizing.

    SSH can also be used for a lot more interesting things. Using Windows, you can instal Cygwin, ssh into a *Nix box and tunnel over X connections, and end up working as if you were actually at the machine.

    Anyways, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

    --unformed
    • True, but see my tutorial on BSDVault here: http://bsdvault.net/sections.php?op=viewarticle&ar tid=83

      Or Click Here [bsdvault.net]

    • "The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

      - Princess Leah, a long time ago and far, far away...

      There is always someone smarter than you...unless you are Jason Isaacs in Armageddon and get to be "pretty much the smartest man on the planet". Trying to lock down a civilization will only ever work for a short period.

      Whatever causes us to complain about laws and/or rules in th U.S., we do have it pretty great in comparison.
      • Re:The moral is... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by junkgrep (266550)
        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?
        • They can (Score:3, Informative)

          by lanren (458290)
          I'm a Chinese, currently in the U.S. When some time ago slashdot posted a story about a Chinese linux company didn't publish their source code there are a lot of discussion in Chinese linux community so I know they can read slashdot. The reason you don't see many Chinese people here is probably because most slashdot stories and discussions are more about politics than technology, or technology that is too far away for average Chinese people. And the general air here is not very Chinese-friendly (my personal view, of course). If you really want to check out the linux community in China, here's a link:
          http://www.linuxforum.net, it's in Chinese, good luck!
    • Does anyone think that if china "loses control" of the Internet, they will just shut it down or (rather than filtering what you can't see) have extremely strict control on what you can?

    • Triangle Boy (Score:5, Informative)

      by Artifice_Eternity (306661) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @12:33PM (#3653065) Homepage
      The CIA's venture capital company, In-Q-Tel, has funded a project called Triangle Boy:

      http://www.cnn.com/2001/TECH/internet/02/15/anonym ity.software.idg/ [cnn.com]

      This CNN article from Feb. 2001 talks a little about it. But at that time it supposedly hadn't been deployed. Since then I've heard that Chinese Internet users are using Triangle Boy for secure connections to the outside world, bypassing the government firewalls.
    • Its just a matter of time before someone goes one step further to package the ssh packets in .gif banner ads. No eavesdropping spook would be the wiser thinking the connection is business as usual as the stealth connection would appear to be a barrage of spam popups.

      I see a great future for stenography.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:05AM (#3651761)
    "The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it."

  • internet censorship (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Una (122314)
    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 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.
    • How is this different from corporate control?

      Well, for starters, Ted Turner's Castro News Network can't have you thrown into the gulag for watching Rupert Murdoch's Fox News.

      See laogai.org [laogai.org], etc.
      • 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

      • Go MEMRI

        One of the most important sites - see also debkafile

        http://www.debka.com/
    • by rhadamanthus (200665) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:56AM (#3652055)
      Thank you for making this very important point. To put numbers to this argument, note that:

      Of all the interesting statistics, the most important is that the number of TV stations, magazines, and media outlets over all has increased tremendously, all the while being more consolidated then ever before. This strikes me as surprising. The illusion of diversity in literature and media is rather frightening. In 1947, 80 percent of daily newspapers were independent; in 1989 that number had shrunk to 20 percent. In 1981, the 11,000 or so magazines were owned by 20 companies, but as of 1988 that number had fallen to three. Books are the same, being controlled by seven major firms. This is not to say that no other sources of information exist, just that the concentration shows no sign of slowing down. Which should strike you as disconcerting.

      Likewise, music is controlled by 5 large groups, representing 84 percent of the US market. (yes, the RIAA) Radio has 60 percent of its content controlled by 3 broadcast groups. And again in movies: In 1985, the 12 largest theater owners had 25 percent of the screens, as of 1998, that figure was about 61 percent and rapidly increasing. The 6 top firms by this point accounted for 90 percent of overall theater revenue. Not surprisingly, 132 out of the 148 "widely distributed" movies in 1997 had deals with these 6 vendors. This also explains the drop in foreign films, from 10 percent in the mid 1970s to 0.5 percent in the 90s.

      Again, in broadcasting, 6 firms control 80 percent of the nations TV and cable, and 75 percent of its content. To summarize, Professor Ben Bagdikian wrote, "despite more than 25,000 outles in the US, 23 corporations control most of the business in newspapers, magazines, books and movies." The top six, FYI, make more revenue than the next 20 combined.

      One hardly needs evidence to notice that such heavy concentration of power, (in this case, information) results inherently in bias. Witness the pro-american rhetoric seething from current media and the "anti-terrorist" news reports that for all we know may be made up.

      The most saddening thing is that the Internet was specifically designed to prevent concentration of information. It was built to promote the free-flow of any idea or voice. But its being swept away in a tidal wave of corporate lobbying and associated legislation, as well as patriotic/moralist/ideological campaigns to stomp out "opposing" viewpoints. Criticize china all you want for their "information suppresion". We are no better, we just don't see it. Apathy and hypocrisy go hand in hand....

      -----------rhad

    • 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.

      Let's see:

      • Slashdot
      • BBC
      • CNN
      • The Register

      Who else do you need?

      ;-)

  • It will be interesting in the coming years to see how China evolves from their current state. The article talks about a man who was put in jail for a few years (a concrete cell as they describe it) for having a web site with a forum where people were talking about democracy and such. It is really very said, coming from a country which strongly supports people's rights to criticize, to see a person be put away for having a venue for free speech in the real true meaning of the term.

    The section about the mine collapse was interesting as well. For those who didn't read the article, there was a mine collapse killing 81 people the "the government" did not want publicized, to the point of threatening journalists. It was released on a web site, and before long, mainstream journalists started picking the story up as well. This is really a revolutionary thing in a country where the press has historically been 100% controlled.

    The public being informed is a major step in a country progressing into a "modern free government." Imagine the economic powerhouse they county may be able to transform itself into if more power and rights are given to the people.

    -Pete
    • Pay close attention: it wasn't "the government" that didn't want it publicized, it was the local provinicial government that didn't want it publicized--to reporters from the official Party newspaper! Notice they stopped interfering when the news finally made it to Beijing. Reading between the lines, what happened here was the provincial governor/commissioner/party hacks didn't want the central government learning about their screw-ups and sending them to a "re-education" camp for a few years.

  • 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.
  • 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 pubjames (468013) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:33AM (#3651926)
      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.

      If this theory is meant to be taken literally, then it is an insult to the Russian people. They aren't that stupid, nor ignorant, at least those that I know in Moscow and StPetersburg. Even many years before the fall of Russian Communism many Russians were well aware about the world outside Russia and the failings of their political system. To say that Russian Communism fell because of McDonalds is such as gross simplification of what happened that it is meaningless.
      • by elflord (9269) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @10:42AM (#3652320) Homepage
        If this theory is meant to be taken literally, then it is an insult to the Russian people. They aren't that stupid, nor ignorant, at least those that I know in Moscow and StPetersburg. Even many years before the fall of Russian Communism many Russians were well aware about the world outside Russia and the failings of their political system.

        It seems fairly clear to me that this is more of a catchy slogan than something that is intended to be taken literally. It encapsulates an important concept though -- it's not enough for "many" Russians to be aware of the failings of the system to bring about change -- the average guy on the street has to see it, and preferably experience it first hand-- it's not really enough to read about it, because even if you're "aware", you will probably not get angry or otherwise excited about something that seems so distant. You feel it so much more if it's rubbed in your face. McDonalds symbolises a first-hand exposure to Western culture, and the relative failings of their own system, as experienced by the common man (as opposed to pontifications on the failings of the system by an academic elite)

      • Actually, I'd claim that the theory is really an insult to American kids, not Russians. High school history isn't designed to teach students anything, it's meant to give them a couple facts to learn, and to shovel the dogma of how the US is the greatest country in the Universe in all ways. If teachers tell their young students that one of the world's superpowers could defeat the other simply by sending over a few burger flippers, then that accomplishes the goal. Teaching that kind of crap to kids insults their intelligence and hinders their thinking process.
        • Teaching that kind of crap to kids insults their intelligence and hinders their thinking process.

          Absolutely. It dismays me that in the USA people these days it seems that people cannot formulate an intelligent response to complex situations where there are multiple variables. Everything gets reduced to good and bad, goodies and baddies, black and white, left and right. Everything is dumbed down, even politics and history. That's why so many people on Slashdot were shocked to read stuff like the letter that Peruvian congress man wrote. Shocked by intelligent, eloquent, unbiased reasoning, because it's so uncommon these days.

    • 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
    • Read some of Hannah Arendt [demon.co.uk]. She is one proponent of the, now classic, J-Curve Theory of Rising and Declining Satisfaction.

      The idea, basically, is that all is well until the public's expectation for change becomes greater than the rate of change allowed by the government. When that happens, you get a revolution.

      This is why Reform is so dangerous to totalitarian regimes - it's not the reform itself, but the rate of reform that does the 'damage'. Gorbachev wanted to reform the USSR's Communist Party - but he went too slowly, the people's expectations got too high, and the Berlin Wall fell.

      The same is happening in China, and not just in the Internet-space. Economic reform almost caused a revolution - which manifested inself in the Tiananmen Square protests - because it was percievd as going too slowly, and NOT because the Chinese wanted the supposed end result of a Western-Style liberal democracy.

      It's actually the process of change that people want, and not the end result. (which is good, as it means we have things like, you know, Progress).
    • by Gulthek (12570) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:53AM (#3652038) Homepage Journal
      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.

      First off you can't suppress something and spread it throughout the community at the same time.

      Second, Chinese Communism split from what was Soviet Communism back in the 1950s as China pissed off the USSR by declaring that they were going to Do It Their Way.
      Nowadays calling the Chinese government Communist is a joke. A joke perpetuated primarily for the benefit of the old party members who still wield control. They have even whipped up an excuse that allows self-proclaimed capitalists to join the Chinese Communist Party! The best explanation of China's current policy is this:

      The CCP leaders are riding in a taxicab, ahead is a fork in the road with one path leading to Communism and one to Capitalism. The driver asks: Which way should I go? After a brief discussion, the leaders tell the driver to signal a turn to Communism, but to actually turn towards Capitalism.

      The CCP wants to keep control over information, but the party isn't stupid. There is just an ongoing high level conflict on government policy, the Internet is just one of the controls being exploited by each side.
    • Obviously, the Orwellian Prophecy has come partially true in this part of the world.

      It wasn't a prophecy and the comparison to the West, in particular the relationship of the UK and the US was quite deliberate.

      Orwell's objective was to make people realise that the USSR was a totalitarian regime and Stalin a tyrant. This was not something that many people wanted to hear in 1948 just after the Russians had done most of the fighting to stop Hitler. The Nazi-Soviet pact had been largely forgotten by this time.

      1984 is full of ironic and sarcastic references to the BBC where Orwell (Eric Blair) worked during the war, manipulating truth in exactly the same way that Smith does. Two majot themes in the book are the erasure of history (suppression of the Nazi-Soviet pact) and the shifting aliances between the 3 great powers.

      Incidentally Orwell was not anti-socialist, he was anti-communist. He was a member of the Labour party and wrote the 1945 Labour manifesto.

  • Yes, the Chinese administrators are sliipping on the Internet watch.

    They maybe able to speell though.

  • Triangle Boy (Score:4, Informative)

    by maxconfus (522536) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:22AM (#3651863)
    Triangle Boy is one of the methods Chinese surfers are using to get around the 'Great Fire Wall' of China.
    http://www.safeweb.com/tboy_whitepaper.html
    Here is the gist of the free program.
    Anybody who downloads triangle boy gives the ability to secretly lend his or her Internet address to users behind restricted firewalls. That, in turn, hands such users the electronic keys they need to receive unfettered access to the Web.

  • just perspective (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tid242 (540756) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:25AM (#3651877) Homepage
    it's interesting to note that this story is entirely from the perspective of a capitalist & democratic society (oft accused (rightly so) of being run by 'elitest technocrats') on its own moral high-ground of assuming an 'information free' culture already exists in its native province (UK). however, with the case of America, perhaps the most blatantly in-your-face with claims of informational freedom, recent studies have shown that a vast majority of internet traffic is centered upon only a few news carriers (yahoo! MSN AOL), and it is well known that the vast majority of our other physical media is controlled solely by but a few companies (TW/AOL, Disney et al). is _this_ freedom? while individuals everywhere will always have oppertunity to express disfavor with whatever it is they feel like, the internet only provides an expanded environment in which to do so, nothing more. a group of individuals discussing politics in a chat-room are no less subordinate to a hostile government in the end, than are the same individuals sitting in a dining room discussion over supper. the globalisation of information is an inevidable progression the information age must allow, yet this in no way assures the integrity of said information, nor its effect on greater society. i live in a proclaimedly expression-embracing country (USA)but my sources of information are undoubtably shaped by the dearth of non-partial reporting in my media-monopoly. more importantly in either society we still engage in 'majority rule' whether the majority is in a republic or communism the sources of information available to *most* people will still dictate the whims of the country. While i _do_ think that it's absolutely wonderful that the Chinese people are recieving more online liberty it should be remembered that until an enormous percentage of people are online & engaging in news-gathering & discussion government-run news agencies will still have a firm control over public belief (56M out of 1.xxB is not a very large percentage).

    sorry this got long (and scatterbrained)

    -tid242

    • by dwm (151474)
      The fact that you were able to post this where hundreds of thousands of people could see it, and have zero chance of being arrested (or even frowned at, most likely) very nicely demolishes your argument.


      Is corporatization of the internet a problem? Yes. Is it in any way comparable to the situation in repressive countries like China? No.


      Just some perspective.

  • somewhere in China...

    Mei Ling: Hey Wang, come here!

    Wang: What is it?

    Mei Ling: This web page says that our General Gao's chicken is made with MSG!

    Wang: Those commie bastards!!

  • Remember this story?

    http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/02/19/ 01 22238&mode=thread&tid=153

    Posted by timothy on Monday February 18, @11:02PM
    from the can-you-read-this-in-beijing dept.

    chowbok writes: "The Weekly Standard writes that despite expectations, the Chinese Government has been very successful in suppressing free internet access for their citizens. Key to this success was the assistance of Cisco, who built a giant firewall tailored to the state's needs, Yahoo (who helpfully censors search results and monitors online chats), and other Western companies."
  • by Neck_of_the_Woods (305788) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @10:31AM (#3652232) Journal
    Radio-Free Europe. I think the USA should set up very high end wi-fi along the borders and broadcast DHCP into china. Smuggle in cards, and repeaters...it would be fun for the whole family!

    America would be loved...err. hated because of porn, er loved because of porn..err..shit what was my point!

  • 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.
  • At a talk he gave at Worldcon in 1998. I can't find an online citation, so I hope he'll forgive me if I mangle his words:

    Intenet censorship for China is like the old "marching Chinese" idea (if everyone in China marched 10 abreast past a given point, the line would never end because it would take more than one generation for the population to pass that point). Only now the question is, can the Chinese government shoot people faster than they can get on the Internet?
  • by mcrbids (148650)
    I don't get a couple of things. First, if the Chinese govt. is feeling threatened by the Internet, why don't they just change the default policy of the firewall to deny? Instead of keeping a "deny" list, keep an "accept" list?

    But, it seems, the issue isn't even really the firewall - the reference in the news article is to an INTERNAL event that spread via email and a web posting.

    The Internet is a can of worms, and the worms have been let loose. If China wants to keep control of the information, they are simply going to have to drop the 'net.

    Good luck, guys!
  • I admin a web server that, while connected to the Internet, is not for public use. It's pretty locked down - no indexes by default, password protection on the directories that have content, the "normal" pages are forbidden, etc. I get a log summary from it every day, and spend a few minutes LARTing Code Red and Nimda sufferers.

    Over the past few months, I've notices a few hits in my logs of Chinese IP addresses trying to retrieve "www.yahoo.com" "www.cnn.com" and such from my server - trying to see if it is an open proxy.

    I wonder if these are Chinese people trying to find an un-blocked proxy, or if is is just script-kiddies and spammers looking for a free ride.
  • Sorry, bad morning.

    You can have a profound effect (on something), or you can do something to affect (something).

    There are other things wrong, but those are best left for another morning.

    I'll go away now...

  • Individuality (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cat_jesus (525334)
    As China continues to have adult generations which consist soley of only children who are accustomed to having access to illegal information, the country will inevitably change. It will be close to impossible to keep the communist ideology alive in the hearts and minds of people who never really had to share anything with anyone. I don't think China has ever addressed the problem of inculcating an inherently individualistic demographic with a philosophy that is in conflict with the experiences of a person who is an only child.

    This is a serious problem before you even get to the huge disparity between the populations of men and women in said generations. Old values and mores will have to adjust; China cannot imprison a generation or two to keep the status quo. Strict authoritarinism and control of information are the two main tools of the Chinese government. Both of these tools are rapidly becoming obsolete.

    Cat
  • freenet? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @01:25PM (#3653407) Homepage
    It's interesting that the stuff the article describes doesn't involve any technological maneuvering at all. What it seems to come down to is that there are some very brave people, who are willing to go to jail if they have to.

    I tried out Freenet recently, and if there were any political dissidents using it, it wasn't apparent. The single biggest application of Freenet seems to be child pornography.

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