Wednesday, June 13, 2007

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Late last month, there was a rare victory for online free expression in China, when that country's bloggers were informed that they would not have to register with the government after all. Unfortunately, however, Chinese cyberspace remains permeated by censorship.

At the end of May, Reporters Sans Frontieres announced that it took Chinese authorities no more than 8 hours to find and block the new location of RSF's Chinese language news portal. Just today, Yahoo announced that China is blocking certain images on Flickr. At least some of the images in question are from the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

These are just two examples of how China is controlling its population's access to online news and information. In fact, according to Amnesty International, China's model for Internet censorship has set the standard for dictatorships around the world. The BBC explains:

"The Chinese model of an internet that allows economic growth but not free speech or privacy is growing in popularity, from a handful of countries five years ago to dozens of governments today who block sites and arrest bloggers," said Tim Hancock, Amnesty's campaign director.

"Unless we act on this issue, the internet could change beyond all recognition in the years to come.

More and more governments are realising the utility of controlling what people see online and major internet companies, in an attempt to expand their markets, are colluding in these attempts," he said.

(Emphasis added-DD)

The rapid spread of state censorship of the Internet is one of the major challenges to intellectual freedom in the world today.


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