About Eiler Communications &Code of behavior &Media 25 Jun 2010 12:33 pm

China: A Double-Sided Internet Policy

A current concern of the average American citizen is monitoring the content of their online profiles. In a culture where an angry post or an inappropriate photo is made available for everyone to see, it is difficult to imagine having limited Internet access due to government censorship. However, this is the existing situation in China where the government has been monitoring online content since the introduction of the Internet years ago. While U.S. citizens are censoring what they put online, the Chinese government is censoring what their citizens can access.

The Golden Shield Project, more commonly referred to as the “Great Firewall of China”, operates as a censorship and surveillance program by the Ministry of Public Security division of the government of China. The Great Firewall of China blocks website content and also monitors Internet sessions of individuals. While it is hard to find an exact number, there are rumored to be as many as 30,000 government officials working as Internet police agents. These Internet police ensure that any critical or questionable material is deleted within minutes. The government expects all Internet service providers, businesses and organizations to abide by Great Firewall of China censorship policies.

To better illustrate the present conditions in China, Internet powerhouse Google pulled out of China last January after having trouble adhering to the strict censorship policies. Google decided that it simply was not feasible to censor all their search results. A few weeks ago, China released a White Paper on Internet usage and its future for Chinese citizens.

The overall message of the paper is that China is attempting to embrace the Internet and all it has to offer. They are aiming to be “a leader in global evolution by monitoring and regulating the Internet”. According to the document, nothing that “subverts state power, undermines national unity, infringes upon honor and interests or incites ethnic hatred and secession” is allowed. Also banned are a majority of social networking sites, terror-related sites, gambling sites, rumor-spreading sites, sites that support superstitious ideas and sites with vulgar or adult material.

As an American citizen accustomed to my First Amendment rights, the Chinese government’s Internet declaration seemed oxy-moronic. It came as a surprise that a government would allow for their World Wide Web to have kinks in it. One of the beauties of the Internet is that a majority of its content is user based. Censoring this content and restricting what is shared results in a bland, less enriched pool of resources. Is it possible for a country to attempt to embrace the Internet while at the same time control it?

Emily Rozanski

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