Wednesday 20 Oct 2021 | 09:19 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 20 Oct 2021 | 09:19 | SYDNEY

More on China cyber censorship


Sam Roggeveen


27 April 2009 12:16

Like Rory, I tested China's internet censorship while there last week, and was similarly surprised. A Google search for 'Tiananmen Square' brought back this Wikipedia page about the 1989 massacre as the top return. YouTube was completely blocked, however, which was probably due to the fact that video had been posted on the site showing Tibetans being beaten up by Chinese police.

It's best that I don't give anything away about my sources, but I learnt a couple of things about the 'great firewall' (which is really no such thing) while in China. First, government censors pay much more attention to Chinese-language sites than those in English, which is why Rory and I would not have gotten such surprisingly anti-China returns if we had done our searches in Chinese characters.

Second, although the Government does devote substantial resources to monitoring the internet, its primary censorship tool is to threaten hosting services with closure if they themselves do not monitor the content that appears on their sites. These are not idle threats — the Government has forced such closures in the past, with users losing valuable data in the process. It's hard to attract customers to your hosting service if people think you are in danger of being shuttered by the state.

It is worth adding that these same sources told me the Government gives a surprising amount of leeway to political discussions on the internet. And the almost universal sentiment among locals I spoke to who are familiar with Western debates about China is that the country is freer than it is given credit for in the West.