The Chinese government, feeling threatened by the flow and exchange of information among its 100 million Internet users, announced yesterday the imposition of new regulations intended to limit access to news and commentary not pre-approved by the government’s Propaganda Department.
The new rules will allow only the posting of “healthy and civilized news and information that is beneficial to the improvement of the quality of the nation, beneficial to its economic development and conducive to social progress,” will be allowed, the official Xinhua News Agency said. “The sites are prohibited from spreading news and information that goes against state security and public interest.”
The news media needs permission to run a news website, it said. New operators have to register themselves with government information offices.
Coincidentally, French watchdog group Reporters Without Borders has just released a Handbook For Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents, with sections on “How to blog anonymously,” “Technical ways to get around censorship,” “Ensuring your e-mail is truly private,” and the waggishly titled “Internet-censor world championship.” China wins in a rout, by the way.
Reads the handbook, “Beijing has spent tens of millions of dollars on the most sophisticated Internet filtering and surveillance equipment. The system is based on a constantly-updated blacklist of websites. Access to ‘subversive’ ones – a very broad notion that includes pornography, political criticism and sites that are pro-Tibet or favor Taiwanese independence – is then blocked at the level of the country’s Internet “backbones” (major connection nodes). But censorship doesn’t stop there and the regime can automatically bar access to sites in which “dubious” keywords, or combinations such as “tianamen” + “massacre,” are spotted.”
Also coincidentally, I just expressed confidence that ultimately openness and democracy will prevail in China. The government will keep trying, but information will continue to find ways around even these clever and sophisticated efforts to contain it and eventually policy will reflect this reality. The beavers only ever succeed temporarily in damming the river.