Internet censorship is synonymous with our neighboring country China. However, Minister of information office of state council of People’s Republic of China, Cai Mingzhou doesn’t seem to agree to the thought process. The minister who is presently visiting India on an official tour has denied existence of any kind of Internet and Social Media censorship in China, reports DNA.
Mingzhou, who was in Mumbai recently with his delegation, shared that Chinese residents enjoy same amount of freedom on the Internet and social media platforms as any other country. He further added, “People enjoy full freedom on the Internet. We have hundreds of millions of registered Internet users. We have more than two million Blackberry users. So, the perception that the government has placed any restrictions on the Internet is untrue.”
Besides this the minister denied wide spread reports that the countries leadership has censored the media in the country and added that Chinese media is no different from any other media present in other country. However, he also added, “We only insist that the media must abide the law of the country and do not violate any regulations and avoid fabrication of stories. Also, they need to be socially responsible by not aggravating any issue.”
In fact same thoughts were echoed recently by an influential Communist Party journal, Qiushi, meaning “seeking truth” in Chinese, when it decried online speech critical of the ruling Communist Party. The magazine also compared Internet rumours to the denunciation posters during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, often denouncing people and institutions as counter-revolutionary or bourgeois.
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To deal with such irresponsible rumours, the government has placed tough measures threatening three years in jail if untrue posts online are widely reposted. According to a judicial interpretation issued by China’s top court and prosecutor, people will be charged with defamation if online rumours they create are visited by 5,000 Internet users or reposted more than 500 times.
Mingzhou’s denial wouldn’t surprise netizens who are well aware of the different kind of censorship the country applies on its netizens. From IP Blocking to TCP connection reset to VPN blocking, Chinese censorship has matured and become more intelligent. This Wikipedia document gives a detailed snap shot of the ongoing Chinese relationship with Internet censorship.
A recent piece by Reuters gave a firsthand insight on censorship into Twitter-like microblogging service Sina Weibo. According to the story 150 male college graduates staff work round the clock to deal with about 3 million posts. About 40 censors work 12-hour shifts on an average day, and each worker must handle at least 3,000 posts an hour.
If this was not enough, last month a research paper written by a group of students at Harvard University gave more insight into the whole censorship process within China. The story covered by TNW highlighted that Chinese censors allow for government criticism, but silence collective expression. The research paper notes:
Our results offer unambiguous support for, and clarification of, the emerging view that criticism of the state, its leaders, and their policies are routinely published whereas posts with collective action potential are much more likely to be censored… We are also able to clarify the internal mechanisms of the Chinese censorship apparatus and show that local social media sites have far more flexibility than was previously understood in how (but not what) they censor.
The three authors – Gary King, Jennifer Pan and Margaret Roberts — selected 100 social media sites in their study, and found that “automated review affects a remarkably large portion of the social media landscape in China”. In some cases, more pro- than anti-government posts are reviewed in certain topics. Basically, the government just does not want any mention of undesired political topics, no matter whether anti-government or supportive of the party.
China and Iran are infamous for their censorship rules. Recently it was reported that Vietnam has been thinking on the same lines. It would be interesting to see how other governments react to such changes in the society in the name of national interest.
Image courtesy: foxnews.com