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China Censorship Communications Government The Internet Your Rights Online

China Allows Most Online Criticism But Cracks Down On Mobilization and Gossip 94

Posted by samzenpus
from the sticks-and-stones dept.
hackingbear writes "Harvard sociologist Gary King has just completed two studies that peer into the Chinese censorship machine — including a field experiment within China that was conducted with extraordinary secrecy. Together, the studies refute popular intuitions about what Chinese censors are after. He found that the censors actually permit 'vitriolic criticism' of China's leaders and governmental policies but the censors crack down heavily on any move to get people physically mobilized to act on such criticism. In a related development, China's top court issued a ruling on Monday to threaten a 3-year sentence for people posting online rumors viewed by 5,000 internet users or reposted more than 500 times. Though, in the same ruling, the court also clarified that a person reposting false rumor should not be punished if he or she does not clearly know the information is false, even if real harm is done. "
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China Allows Most Online Criticism But Cracks Down On Mobilization and Gossip

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  • I want one (Score:5, Funny)

    by Megahard (1053072) on Monday September 09, 2013 @04:33PM (#44802271)

    That is, a censor that filters out gossip and any request for me to physically move.

    • Re:I want one (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Monday September 09, 2013 @04:42PM (#44802371) Homepage Journal

      ...censors actually permit 'vitriolic criticism' of China's leaders and governmental policies but the censors crack down heavily on any move to get people physically mobilized to act on such criticism.

      So. Am I to conclude from this observation that China has enacted the same essential policy [sourcewatch.org] as the United States of America?

      The "Big Brother" societies have discovered that a "Free Press" can be managed to function as bread and circuses once did. This is the dictum: "You are free to say whatever you like, provided that you act withing the proscribed boundary."

      Now is the time to sing "Barret Brown's Body".

      • It sounds like they've realized that letting 'slacktivists' do ineffectual things may actually have less overall impact on social order than trying to preserve the illusion of perfect order. A reasonable conclusion, given how frequently people get mad as hell and rant about it on the internet a bit, feel as though they've done something, and then go back to their day.
      • So. Am I to conclude from this observation that China has enacted the same essential policy as the United States of America?

        No, not quite. In the US you can organize, march, and otherwise engage in activism, but you still have to do it within the law. China, on the other hand, clamps down on people that attempt to organize, march, or otherwise engage in activism. And as noted in the story, they are instituting a 3-year sentence for people posting "online rumors." That makes for quite a difference.

        Who do you think is turning Mother Jones and various other leftist periodicals into members of a "Free Press?" Would that be thei

        • China, on the other hand, clamps down on people that attempt to organize, march, or otherwise engage in activism.

          You're trolling again [theguardian.com]...

          In case you don't want to read the link:

          In August 2011 a protest in the north-eastern city Dalian led local authorities to announce that they were would relocate a polluting PX plant. The following summer, the coastal city Qidong scrapped a pipeline plan after about a thousand protesters stormed government offices and overturned cars.

        • "Within the law"

          The essential point of agreement between US and PRC. The US has enforced "Free Speech Zones" as law, in contravention of the law.

          The US position is essentially: "Remain ineffective and largely unnoticeable, or its time for zip-ties and truncheons".

      • Surveillance is very different from censorship. The occupy movement was allowed extreme publicity in all major press.
        • FIFY:
          The occupy movement was allowed extreme public ridicule in all major (corporate) press.

        • Just surveillance? My dear friend. You live in a security state. Surveillance is something that you seem to see as nearly harmless, and possibly an end in itself.

          Follow the trail from Anon to Occupy. Why is Barrett Brown in Jail, under gag order - where does this intersect with Snowden - and why is Michael Hastings dead?

          Hastings has been posthumously smeared several times, by "Major Press" - with a deliberate misrepresentation of the Coroner's forensic report on his death.

          http://whowhatwhy.com/2013/08/0 [whowhatwhy.com]

    • by Anonymous Coward

      China should look at the impact groups like the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street had, and just not do censorship because it is not necessary.

      Exactly what effect do mass protests even have?

      They can be cleared out with firehoses and a bunch of other techniques. The only reason the Civil Rights protests succeeded while the counterprotests are forgotten didn't is that the Civil Rights protests had glowing mass media coverage. Presumably China has control over its mass media.

      • the tea party and occupy wall street both suffered heavy amounts of arrest and harassment and intimidation by the police, along with infiltration, provocateurs, and other methods of sabotage of all stripes.
        • by daem0n1x (748565)

          The Tea Party? Arrests? Really? I read about them being spied on, but never heard of arrests. Why would your government want to piss off the billionaires behind the movement, the ones that basically rule the USA?

          I got plenty of news about infiltrations and police brutality against OWS, however. Not in the mass media, of course. Here on the other side of the Atlantic, our media is as much as corrupt as yours. They pretended OWS never existed or, at most, was just a gang of anarchists doing vandalism.

      • by f3rret (1776822)

        Exactly what effect do mass protests even have?

        "Mass" has a whole different meaning when you're talking about china, there's a lot of chinese people.

      • Occupy may have done nothing, but the tea party got a lot of members of congress elected.
  • Like America! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Beardydog (716221) on Monday September 09, 2013 @04:38PM (#44802317)
    So, it's just like America, where you can say whatever you want about politics, but if three people are holding protest signs on the side of the road, the FBI will try to wiretap and infiltrate them.
    • I think you are treating the Chinese government unfairly. They worked hard to be distinct, and you're making fake claims about there being a knockoff.

      Let the Chinese government have it's moment in the sun.

    • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Monday September 09, 2013 @04:46PM (#44802433)

      No, in the U.S. we just use bread and circuses to make the citizens not want to protest too much.

      BTW, did anyone hear about the new iPhone that's coming out this week?

    • Re:Like America! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Monday September 09, 2013 @05:00PM (#44802585) Homepage

      if three people are holding protest signs on the side of the road, the FBI will try to wiretap and infiltrate them.

      The big difference here is, these three hypothetical people will not be facing a three-year sentence.

      You may equate an FBI investigation with actual imprisonment all you want, but in practice there is some difference.

      • by coma_bug (830669)

        The big difference here is, these three hypothetical people will not be facing a three-year sentence.

        how about twenty years? [commondreams.org]

        • by mi (197448)
          From your link:

          In the dark, the three activists cut through a boundary fence which had signs stating “No Trespassing.”

          Not quite "simply holding signs", were they?

        • Followed and read your link [commondreams.org]. What I found was not people standing by the side of the road with a sign. They violated the security of a nuclear weapons facility by cutting through three fences and engaging in vandalism which resulted in a shutdown of the facility.

          In the early morning hours of Saturday, July 28, 2012, long-time peace activists Sr. Megan Rice, 82, Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, and Michael Walli, 63, cut through the chain link fence surrounding the Oak Ridge Y-12 nuclear weapons production facility and trespassed onto the property. Y-12, called the Fort Knox of the nuclear weapons industry, stores hundreds of metric tons of highly enriched uranium and works on every single one of the thousands of nuclear weapons maintained by the U.S....

          In the dark, the three activists cut through a boundary fence which had signs stating “No Trespassing.” The signs indicate that unauthorized entry, a misdemeanor, is punishable by up to 1 year in prison and a $100,000 fine. ...

          On Wednesday August 1, all nuclear operations at Y-12 were ordered to be put on hold in order for the plant to focus on security.

          • Wait.. An 82 year old broke into a nuclear weapons manufacturing reactor site?

            Oh, as they say, shit.

            And here I thought my granny was tough.

            Guess you were right all along, gotta keep an eye on everyone. Hardcore peacenik grannies most of all.

            • I think it's reasonable to keep an eye on everyone planning to break into nuclear weapons facilities. If you disagree I'd be interested to hear why.

              Suppose granny and her two friends were only the first wave, just to check if the way was clear? It is entirely possible that granny and friends wouldn't know they were being used. Or perhaps they are being used as "human shields," a tactic that is increasingly popular with various groups these days. Lots of nasty possibilities.

              Algerian bloodbath: 23 hostage [humanevents.com]

          • by jschrod (172610)
            People like you make me realize that the current transformation of the USA into a fascist police state is actually supported by many of its inhabitants.

            Very scary, from this side of the pond.

            *PLONK*

            • That tells me you probably understand neither the USA nor fascist police states.

              It would also seem to imply that you consider the security of nuclear materials to be something to play at. Do you take the same stand with them in your land?

      • if three people are holding protest signs on the side of the road, the FBI will try to wiretap and infiltrate them.

        The big difference here is, these three hypothetical people will not be facing a three-year sentence.

        "If two boys get together and steal a candy bar, that is a misdemeanor and a serious matter. If three boys get together and plot to steal a candy bar, but don't do it, that is a conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor, which is a felony crime and a far more serious matter." - Apocryphal often attributed to Adlai Stevenson.

        • by mi (197448)

          that is a conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor, which is a felony crime

          No, it is not [cornell.edu].

          • I am glad it has been amended. Certainly it was an injustice. I am old enough to remember when it was true, though not nearly as old as Stevenson.
            • by mi (197448)

              I am glad it has been amended. Certainly it was an injustice.

              I wouldn't say, it is necessarily an injustice in all cases. A small crime committed on an impulse — see candy, see cashier looking the other way — is less serious, than a cold-blooded conspiracy. Because whereas the impulse might still have the scruples not realize, given time, he should not do it, with the conspirators there is no such doubt.

              But were discussing, what is and what is not legal in US vs. China — not what the pun

      • You're right of course, there are still differences. But from the outside (I'm not in the US or China) it looks like the gap is closing fast. ALEC would like to see environmentalists with video cameras charged with terrorism, for instance. You're only one party away from a one-party state -- if we can even count dems and reps to be significantly distinct..

        • You're only one party away from a one-party state -- if we can even count dems and reps to be significantly distinct...

          This is a mistake many — Americans and foreigners alike — make about America's political system. True, we only have two major parties, but that's because we use them completely differently: we vote for persons, not for parties.

          Whereas in most (all?) Democracies world-wide the voters pick parties on their ballots, Americans pick actual people. Party-affiliation in the US is nei

          • by jschrod (172610)
            If that's the case, why do all those personally voted people in US congress vehemently clamp to their party line? Or did you see a Rep lately that didn't want to block anything that's in front of him/her? How about those "`I will rather risk polical death than plug tax evasion schemes' promises" that they signed?

            Being from Europe (Germany), I don't buy your argument. The news and the reported facts about congress member behavior tell different.

            And your argument about the reason of your two-party system,

            • by mi (197448)

              If that's the case, why do all those personally voted people in US congress vehemently clamp to their party line?

              Sometimes they do so, and some times — on the issues, on which they don't agree with their chosen Party. — they do not. Whether it is legalizing the illegal immigrants currently in the US, or attacking Syria, a number of lawmakers vote against their Party's majority. There is even a term for it: "crossing the party line".

              And your argument about the reason of your two-party system, we

        • You should probably use more salt [phrases.org.uk] when you swallow commentary on Slashdot. There are some questions that the two parties will largely agree on based on broad social consensus*, but contrary to many reports on Slashdot, they tend to pursue different goals in many policy areas.

          You may find some insights by reading here [nationalreview.com] from time to time.

          * Allowing the country to be invaded is bad. Social welfare programs should continue to exist.

      • ...in practice there is some difference.

        That being the US has a lot more people in prison, and in China the death penalty is mercifully swift.

    • Or they'll just be put in free speech zones, or suppressed if they didn't beg the government (protest permits) to protest beforehand (but only if the protestors are numerous).

    • by steelfood (895457)

      That's assuming they don't get arrested first for failing to apply for and receive a permit to protest.

      The bad thing is that the FBI's actually been doing this since its inception. They have a profile on everybody who's anybody.

      The good thing is that the masses are actually starting to realize this. And they're not liking how deep the rabbit hole goes.

  • by SIR_Taco (467460) on Monday September 09, 2013 @04:40PM (#44802347) Homepage

    "... But Cracks ..."

  • Hybrid Culture (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wrackspurt (3028771) on Monday September 09, 2013 @04:57PM (#44802551)
    It's interesting to watch China spin a hybrid culture starting from a central planning state like that implemented by Mao and branching out into an economic powerhouse. America started from a clean slate and basically wrote and implemented a new state from the ground up using ideas from people like J.S. Mill and John Locke. China seems to be taking a more tentative and perhaps a more organic approach of melding business enterprise while maintaining a central planning government. It should be interesting to watch the economic imperatives rub shoulders with the rear guard of the politburo over the next couple of decades when a strong middle class evolves.
  • Gee, I wonder who gets to decide which rumors are true or false?
  • "...but the censors crack down heavily on any move to get people physically mobilized to act on such criticism."

    "Oderint, dum metuant."

    or:

    "Let them hate, so long as they fear."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucius_Accius [wikipedia.org]

    You may say what you will, but you may never actually do anything about it.

  • Why really, we're just not the gossipy kind!
    Oh, you'll never hear one of us repeating gossip!
    So you'd better be sure and listen close the first time. ..

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