China's efforts, to control and censor the Internet within its borders, are now taking on blogs. One recent study indicated that there are nearly 40 million blogs right now, and that number could exceed a hundred million by the end of 2007. But probably not, because of the new censorship effort. The crack down is being accomplished with corporate network monitoring, largely made in the U.S.A.
China is dealing with its population the same way many American corporations treat all their employees, at least when it comes to Internet use. China is also using many of the same screening and censoring tools developed to meet corporate needs in the United States. America because the primary supplier of police state Internet censorship needs because of all the laws, and threats of law suits, American corporate users face if their employees break the law, or come close to it. This also includes the increasing popular category of "hate speech." Depending on how good a lawyer an offended employee has, this offense could range from an innocent comment (subject to misinterpretation) to an over-the-top racy joke, comment or criticism. The Sarbanes-Oxley law, meant to eliminate corporate misdeeds, has made it mandatory to more closely monitor what corporate employees say to each other.
European countries, while they tend to be more politically correct in public, are much less so in private. So the thought police software industry developed in the United States, where enforcement is taken more seriously. This has been an enormous help for the Chinese. Typical "corporate liability prevention" software enables the monitoring of huge amounts of Internet data. These software and hardware tools have also been useful for law enforcement, despite complaints that privacy is at risk. In the battle between political correctness and privacy, the latter usually loses.
China is the great laboratory for efforts to censor the Internet. The web was designed to defeat all attempts to destroy it. But censorship is another matter. While the few percent of Internet users who are tech-savvy, can get around censorship efforts, the vast majority of users cannot, will not, or just don't care. China's censorship of the search engines has, so far, been very successful. Blogs are the next target because anyone on the net can reach any one of them. The Chinese have enough trouble with email and instant messaging spreading information the government does not approve of. Blogs can mobilize anti-government opinion much more quickly. Thus the blogs are now in the line of fire. Next will probably come email and instant messaging, although the expense of censorship at that level may be too much. Then again, maybe not. China is still a police state, and the unelected officials who run the country cannot afford to have an increasingly restive and critical population that possess the means to communicate and collaborate freely.
Happy 4th of July.