How Is Internet Censorship Used in China and Around the World
Internet is an inseparable part of modern life. It gives people access to more information within the shortest time than any previous generation could dream of. One can find any information that concerns work, leisure, and other activities, connect with other people, meet new friends, watch movies, listen to music, as well as study and work on the Internet. Internet is the invention that keeps all people united at any distance and helps them share information in no time. Nearly a quarter of all people on the planet are active users of the Internet (Warf 2).
However, as well as anyone can search for information that he/she needs and everyone can upload information he/she would like to share, certain problems emerge because of this. The amount of web pages is enormous and it is impossible to predict what one can find when surfing the Internet. There is violence, porn, bullying, abuse, and obscenities all over the Internet, one does not obligatory have to look for these things in order to see them. There are viruses that can ruin the PC’s operating system, steal personal data of the user, and share it. Thus, the Internet can lead to serious moral, cultural, ethical, and even material damage.
The humanity has used censorship over the centuries in different spheres of life. There have been times for euphemisms, punishments for sharing certain information, and penalty charges for violation of the censorship laws. Thus, emergence of such phenomenon as Internet censorship is not surprising and is rather predictable, especially in totalitarian and communistic countries.
Internet censorship controls data that users can view, access, or publish on the Internet. Different authorized bodies can establish censorship, most frequently including state government, private organizations, as well as other authorities and individuals. There are various kinds of reasons for censoring the Internet like religion, morals, business concepts, social and state norms, intimidation of consequences, and legal demands. Even though most people think that access to the Internet is among basic human rights nowadays, they believe as well that censorship should exist to some extent as long as it does not suppress any human rights and freedom of expression of any individual. Internet censorship is not an accidental event. Authorities have tried to legalize Internet censoring in the United States many times over the years. The Congress did not manage to pass the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) back in 2011. It was meant to allow the government to suppress any copyrighted materials and unidentified material from the Internet.
It would have allowed the government to block additional undefined material from the Internet and anything that was copyrighted if enacted into law. It is up to a person how he/she uses resources that he/she can find on the Internet. For example, one could learn how to scare or even poison a partner or how to plant and grow a beautiful garden. The issue of Internet censorship can be compared to gun control. The fact that something can do harm does not mean that everyone will use this particular thing for a negative purpose.
In 1994, China joined the global computer network. Since then, the Internet development has been great. In 2008, China became the largest Internet user on the planet, beating the United States of America (Liang and Lu 104). The Internet promoted great development of the Chinese economy. Still, the Chinese government has attempted to monitor and manipulate public Internet use and telecommunications. Internet censorship in China is determined by legal, economic, and political conditions of the country. The system of Internet censorship in China is the most complex of all existing ones (Xu, Mao and Halderman 2). It leads to separation of the Chinese Internet from the global Internet (Deva 301). Chinese Internet censorship is a matter of attention in the international media. The Chinese Internet filtering is the most popular issue. It works like this: Internet users that access Internet from a certain network are not able to access certain web sites automatically. Internet filtering has various levels, ranging from household to national. In China, blacklisted web sites, addresses, and keywords are plugged into software systems and routers that control the Internet traffic in the country. This system is often informally referred to as the Great Firewall of China. There are companies that assist with internet censorship in China even if they are outside of this country and do not have to comply with the censorship at all. Internet traffic is filtered in and out of the country. Its features include DNS hijacking, IP blocking, content filtering, and keyword filtering. It is fair to say that the system of Internet filtering in China is the most powerful, sophisticated, facilitated, and extensive in the whole world (Deva 257).
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China has a large number of imprisoned journalists, which shows that censorship is a rather serious matter in the country. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has one of the most restrictive systems of Internet censorship policies. Any website that holds information about a banned spiritual movement called Falun Dong is immediately banned. The same fate awaits all web pages that tell about Dalai Lama or Tiananmen Square protestors. China had great problems with Google because of the censorship issue. Google refused to cooperate with the country as long as it continued filtering results of the Google search. Gmail addresses of users from China suffered numerous cyber-attacks that attempted to attack human rights. However, China demands that those who cooperate with the country have to follow its laws. Consequently, Google search services have been closed in China and the search engine in Hong Kong has taken upon itself all users because this way there is no censorship. Even though technically there is no violation of the law, government officials are unhappy with such a shift and the conflict is likely to complicate in the future.
Some people believe that if Google were present in the country, it could lead to weakening of the government’s strength. People would have access to more information. However, every Chinese web site hires specialists who observe and control content so that it complies with the policy of the government. Earlier, the Chinese government required that “Green Dam-Youth Escort” software program had to be installed on any new computer made in the country. Basically, the program would record every move of the user, which met strong indignation abroad; that is why, the enforcement of this rule has been delayed. Originally, the campaign of government censors submitted that their main priorities were decency and morals. In practice, 250 blogs and nearly 2,000 sites were closed. Among them were message groups, forums, and text messages that discussed different touchy issues such as politics. In China, bloggers are very popular and their community grows rapidly. In 2009, there were 70 million bloggers in the country; the amount of Internet users exceeded the number of 300 million people back in 2009 as well. These numbers are the largest in the world. Obviously, China needs to receive information of different kind from all over the world in order to improve and develop its economy. Ironically, it continues blocking more and more channels of vital information because of the censorship (McCarthy 83). The more commercialized the country becomes, the greater the stress on the investigative reporting is. Ideally, the government has to separate itself from the issue of censorship completely. When the government controls the Internet, it controls what information people get and how the information is handled. If every nation’s leader had the right to control what other people could see, democracy would disappear from the planet very quickly.
In the United States of America, Internet censorship is not possible because it would violate freedom and basic human rights. Americans have to ensure that there will never be Internet censorship in the country because the violation of the freedom of speech would destroy basic principles of the USA. Still, in many countries such as Chile, England, Turkey, South Africa, China, Thailand, Singapore, and Australia, Internet censorship is a usual thing. People should be able to view whatever kind of information they need to access as long as it does not harm anyone else. People who support Internet censorship suggest that all forms of communication should comply with strict regulations. One should always remember that offensive material he/she can accidentally find on the Internet might be offensive on purpose. Whenever anyone speaks their mind, they meet controversial opinions; that is why, it is important to evaluate possible users of the information before it gets into the Internet even if there is no censorship and no punishments for any kind of information. China has shared its technology of monitoring and filtering with Zimbabwe. Other countries such as Yemen, Iran, and Tunisia try to render success of the Chinese censorship within the borders of their state. There are cases when café Internet surfers were fined because they accessed banned web sites. In the Internet cafes of Burma, screens are monitored every five minutes. In most cases, government has easy access to data that Internet service providers collect. They create huge databases that include personal information. When censorship is enforced in a free society, it becomes more closed and less free. Cyberspace should enlarge freedom of expression for everyone instead of restricting it. If ideas get checked before they can be shared, there is no freedom of speech in the country.
It is impossible to regulate Internet the way any other medium is regulated because it is different in its form, purpose, and functioning. This unique means of communication still has to prove itself. There are no borders on the Internet; that is why, it cannot comply with rules of all countries where its users live. It is impossible to oversee rules of foreign countries for the sake of domestic regulations. Physical boundaries do not exist on the Internet and there is no easy way to determine which violations have to be prosecuted. Over 5 billion people are expected to get Internet access over the next decade. A lot of individuals, organizations, and authorities fight against censorship. This has led to emergence of the Internet freedom movement. If people make the most of opportunities and resources that are available, it is possible to overcome Internet censorship completely within a decade. There is no other option in order to make the next generation of Internet users from around the world free.