I recently watched Michael Anti’s lecture Behind The Great Firewall of China providing the public with an insight into China’s censorship of the internet and reasons for doing so. One of the most interesting facts raised by Anti was the invention of China’s websites that mimic the rest of the worlds, particularly social media sites (twitter and facebook). The photo below shows our familiar and well-recognized sites on the left juxtaposed with China’s similar alternative.
As Anti points out the Chinese Government blocked every site the web 2.0 brought out but mimicked every single one of them. In Anti’s terms that’s “smart censorship” so China can keep all servers within the country for close monitoring. This reminds me of what some parents would like to do to monitor their children but on an extremely larger scale in China’s case. Anit refers to this censorship and hierarchy as cat and mouse. The cats are the government trying to reign by limiting the actions of its’ mice, the public by enforcing threatening outcomes if disobeyed.
Twitter’s Chinese clone ‘Weibo’ was created and public just one month after twitter had been banned by the Chinese Government, according the Michael Anti it means that in just one moth an alternative had been created and the government had been convinced to allow this replication within its border. Once ‘Weibo’ was up and running it quickly grew to become a media platform of 300 million (yes the entire population of America) readers. Anti compares it to a Facebook/ Twitter blend rather than just a replica of the original Twitter.
One of the most eye opening point Anti made in his lecture was the Chinese Governments ability to filter through posts and assign alerts to key words such as “meet up”, “walk” or “gathering”. These posts are then put on high alert and filtered through by additional government analogy. By the time you go to meet up or attend a gathering the police are already they’re waiting for you and send you home. Proving the very tight censorship of the government. I couldn’t believe just how strict the government are and imagined if the regulations were so tight in Australia that I would fear to write anything disallowed and be punished. I don’t think many people would enjoy living in such fear using a program made arguably in conjunction with peoples’ ‘freedom of speech’ rights.
In an article by United Kingdom’s Mirror News the weird world of weibo can take up to a week to get through censorships monitored by more than 1000 government employees and be published on the Weibo site or for the unlucky (or naughty) users, their posts will be deleted. An example of this was Brad Pitts recent post stating “I’m coming, yup it’s the truth” which initially uploaded and was forwarded more than 47,000 times winthin an hour only to be deleted a couple of house later after Chinese Censorship team had recognized the post (appartently Brad Pitt isn’t allowed to visit China).
All in all these two sources have opened my eyes up to the social media censorship in China and like Anti said if one day China can reach a similar freedom of speech without fear in the social media realm it would be a wishful miracle. We just have to sit tight and hope that day will come.