The first email was sent in China in 1987. Since then, it has seen increased regulation of the internet, starting in the 1990s. It has developed rapidly and connects many people in the country with each other, and it should connect them with the outside world.
However, internet censorship has been a major issue for some time now in the world’s largest economy. Around the world internet censorship is a fact of life that many people deal with every day. In part one of this series, China and its relationship with the internet will be covered.
Censorship of internet sites
For the average Chinese person, access to sites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Google are not allowed. There is also a growing list of over 18,000 sites that are blocked for various reasons. Many of the blocked sites are ones that threaten the political status quo.
Religious sites, such as those to do with Falun Gong, are also restricted. Many of the hot-button issues in China like the Tibetan or Taiwanese struggle for independence, Tiananmen Square protests, freedom of speech and democracy are included too. These are all issues that the government has decided there should be no information freely available to its citizens.
Search engines and social media
China blocks access to certain terms in search results on their domestic search engines. For foreign ones, such as Bing or yahoo.com.cn, they also impose restrictions. The Chinese user searching for these terms will get little to no results.
The so-called Great Firewall uses a number of methods to enforce its rules, and many of them extend to social media. There are social media censors whose only job is to read individual posts and take them down if they go against policy. In addition to this, the government hires people to post pro-government propaganda on social media sites.
Technology is also used to auto-block posts, so depending on the keywords used, the post will not even appear online. The restrictions have even gone as far as blocking images and keywords related to a certain human rights activist who died. After his death, all of the content related to his life disappeared from the internet in China.
How censorship hurts Chinese society
Yes, many countries impose control on their citizens’ internet. They may ban sites that promote hate, for example. The Chinese government argues that the restrictions on media help to maintain national security and social order. In a time where Google and Facebook are large news players, there is what could be perceived as paranoia on the part of the government.
However, reducing freedom of speech is not the only drawback to censorship. Many of Google’s technology features cannot be used, for example Google Cloud. This stops the exchange of ideas and potentially useful business services. The internet was created to share thoughts and information and censorship is a huge threat to its future.