Monday, September 24, 2007

Shoring Up the Great Firewall

The Christian Science Monitor reports that China is intensifying its censorship of the Internet:

The new censorship wave appears linked to next month's 17th Communist Party Congress, a key political gathering that will set China's course for the coming five years. Party leaders generally prefer to meet undisturbed by criticism.

Censors and Web-hosting firms always keep an eye out for unapproved views on sensitive subjects, often deleting them.

But this campaign seems more indiscriminate. In recent weeks, police nationally have been shutting down Internet data centers (IDCs), the physical computers that private firms rent – from state-owned or private companies – to host websites offering interactive features, say industry insiders. "With the approach of the Party Congress, the government wants the Internet sphere silent, to keep people from discussing social problems," says Isaac Mao, one of China's first bloggers, who is now organizing a censorship monitoring project. "Shutting down IDCs is a quick and effective way of shutting down interactive sites."

To avoid being blocked, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in China and individual websites have been disabling chatrooms, forums, and other interactive features that might provide a platform for viewpoints unacceptable to the authorities.

"We don't want to get shut down so we shut down anything that could be offensive," says one foreign ISP employee. "Our upstream provider [the company that owns the servers] told us verbally there should be no commentary, no blogs, no bulletin board services, because the government is going bananas."

Altogether, according to the article, the Chinese regime has blocked access to 18,401 web sites since April.


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