China: May 19, 2005

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China is writing the book on how to develop techniques for controlling the Internet. The government recognizes that it's impossible to completely control access to the Internet. But it is possible to greatly influence the way Chinese citizens use the Internet, and that's what the government is doing. Using filtering hardware and software (the "Great Firewall of China") the government blocks access to many web sites, and monitors what most people say online (email, chat, BBSs). Thus most Chinese watch what they say and do on the net. The net experts can get around the government restrictions with much less risk. But the government is going farther. They are recruiting active web users, especially bloggers, to push the government line, and keep the government informed about whatever they come across. This recruitment of informers is a traditional technique in dictatorships, and communist dictatorships have always been particularly vigorous in this department. All of this is seen as part of  ancient Chinese traditions. The original Great Wall of China was not built to stop the northern barbarians (Mongols and the like), but to slow them down when they came south to raid. The use of informers, and paying people to push the government line, is also ancient practice. Old ideas, now tools. 

 

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