• Censorship in China raises its ugly head again
  • Censorship in China raises its ugly head again
    Written by battye
    Sat Jan 12, 2008 5:58 am

    It made headlines around the world when the Chinese government and Chinese internet service providers blocked access to Wikipedia in 2004, on the 15 year anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests. Wikipedia was unblocked and reblocked several times over the years following, at times the blocks being quite erratic. Regardless, this form of censorship is seen as a blow to democracy.

    It seems that the Chinese government want to take it a step further now, considering implementing filters for video distributing websites, namely Youtube and MySpace. Whether they are willing to act on the threat though, remains to be seen. The Chinese would be looking to block any anti-government video, or any other touchy subject, such as Taiwan independence and the Tiananmen Square protests. However, China simply does not have the resources to block certain types of video.

    Blocking text and keywords is a relatively simple task, any half-decent programmer can do it. Blocking IP ranges and domains is even simpler, as the Chinese government demonstrated when blocking Wikipedia. But to scan a video file for certain content or audio strings is a much more difficult task, and not something that is worth investing what could be hundreds of millions of dollars into. Then consider that thousands of new videos are being uploaded to sites like YouTube daily. It would be just about impossible to scan thousands of videos daily, not to mention the millions that have already been submitted.

    Taking this into account, it would seem the Chinese government don't have any intentions of actually doing any of this. The growing Chinese market is an attractive proposition for advertisers and administrators, and the Chinese government know this. Therefore they are hoping that websites will take it upon themselves to moderate their content, ensuring it is suitable for the local audience.

    Ricardo Reyes, a spokesman for Youtube told Forbes, "We obey local laws wherever we have local site". Luckily for Youtube, they do not have a Chinese Youtube site, but they do have one based in the special administrative region of Hong Kong. Hong Kong have their own laws, but have been administered by China since gaining independence from Britain in 1997. Due to various technicalities, Youtube may not have to enforce local laws on a Hong Kong website, but the Chinese government could apply pressure on them to do so.

    It is sad that this must even be discussed. Priorities and morals have clearly been thrown out the window when time isn't being spent devising a way to block things of real concern - how about blocking child pornography? Nope, it is more important to block political messages.
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