[iDC] The Internet in China

Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Thu Jun 8 12:24:18 EDT 2006

Amnesty International just launched Irrespressible.info 
On the website it reads, "Chat rooms monitored. Blogs deleted. Websites
blocked. Search engines restricted. People imprisoned for simply posting
and sharing information. The Internet is a new frontier in the struggle
for human rights." The Irrespressible campaign is a collaboration
between Amnesty and The Observer that brings these concerns to the

This ³campaign [will] show that online or offline the human voice and
human rights are impossible to repress.² 

But, I wonder if a society that allows Internet communication is
necessarily more democratic? 

Net communication is harder to control than mass media but China, for
example, ³sanitizes² its Internet through proxies and its Great Firewall
quite efficiently. CNN, human rights organizations, Taiwan or
Tibet-related sites, and BBC News are often unavailable to those without
technical knowledge. 

It¹ll be interesting to see if Irrepressible¹s campaigns will have an
impact on China and on Google, Yahoo, Skype, and Microsoft who put
business over human rights. Or, is a censored Google search engine
better than none (as somebody living in China recently told me)?


Beyond market calculations it is pertinent to consider how new media can
affect civic life. The networked public sphere can empower NGOs and
grass roots organizations by connecting them to international activist
networks but also by interconnecting geographically dispersed Chinese
activists with same topical focus. But, where are these ³scenes of
empowerment² (Chun)? One thing is clear: these conversations are not
merely about technology, or the Internet; the networked public sphere
impacts the future of civil society at large.  

Most of you are probably familiar with the comparison of image search
results for ³Tiananmen² between Google China and Google¹s homebrew. 

Google China:

Google US:

China, to be sure, is not alone with its repressive rule. Also Vietnam
enforces censorship. In addition, Yochai Benkler reports that Myanmar
(formerly known as Burma) has only one Internet Service Provider and the
government runs that. It needs to authorize anybody who wants to create
a webpage within the country. This, in turn, keeps much business out of
the country but apparently the government is willing to pay that price.  


What follows is a list that I compiled over the past few months. It
consists of news items, essays, and references (not in chronological
order) relating to China and the debate about control.


Empirical Analysis of Internet Filtering in China
by Jonathan Zittrain and Benjamin Edelman

The Chinese mainland has 111 million netizens.

A letter on one of China's most popular Internet bulletin boards, from a
husband denouncing a student he suspected of carrying on an affair with
his wife started a mob.
China has more than 30 million bloggers, a few are political. 

Chinese authorities detained filmmaker and blogger Wan Tu.

The China Blog List (CBL) is a collection of links to English language
weblogs focused on China, many of them are written by foreigners.

Google's decision to launch a censored version of its search engine in
China has drawn opprobrium from many bloggers around the world.

PEOPLE in China are now able to verify others¹ ID cards by using short
messaging services or through the Internet.

The more than 100 million people are online in China and most domestic
users are prevented from accessing the main Google.com search engine.

In 2005, the number of webpages in China jumped 269 per cent to a total
of 2.4bn. 

China's Internet media calls for self-discipline.

China has now become the second largest exporter of ³visual arts²,
accounting for 19% of world exports...

China to Regulate Email Servers. It made it illegal to run an email
server without a license. 

RFID technology has arrived in China in an unprecedented manner, with
over 100 million tags shipped in 2005.

Model Worker awards: the best China blogs 2005

25% of blogs are written in Chinese

The 'blog' revolution sweeps across China

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