Jason Deng, “Wang Ba Pai Zhao Shen Pi Jie Dong” [Suspension of Cybercafe Licenses Lifted], QQ News, March 13, 2009, http://tech.qq.com/a/20090313/000392.htm (in Chinese); “Wang Ba Pai Zhao Kai Jin, Jing Ji Han Dong Zhong De Yi Ba Huo” [Suspension of Cybercafe Licenses Lifted: Positive Effect of Economic Recession], Tien Xia Wang Meng, December 23, 2008, http://www.netbarcn.net/Html/HotTopics/12231117335286.html (in Chinese); “Zengzhou 2009 Nian Wang Ba Pai Zhao Jiang Shi Du Fang Kai Shen Pi” [Zengzhou Cybercafe License Ban to Be Lifted in Moderation in 2009],) Henan News Daily, February 23, 2009, http://www.netbarcn.net/Html/todaynetbar/02232050122415.html (in Chinese).
“Quan Guo Ge Di Guan Yu Wang Ba Pai Zhao Jie Jin De Xing Wen Hui Zong” [Cybercafe Licensing Ban Lifted Across the Country – News Summary], Tien Xia Wang Meng, December 23, 2008, http://www.netbarcn.net/Html/PolicyDynamic/12231119046113.html (in Chinese); “Wang Ba Shen Pi Bing Dong 7 Nian Jie Jin” [Seven-year Freeze on Internet Cafe Licenses Lifeted], [Wangba.net, January 19, 2010, http://www.wangba.net/xinwen/12638974233019.shtml (in Chinese).
“China Shuts Over 60,000 Porn Websites This Year,” Reuters, December 30, 2010, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTOE6BT01T20101230.
CHINA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net least as forcefully.24 The most systematically censored topics include criticism of top leaders, independent evaluations of China’s rights record, violations of minority rights in Tibet and Xinjiang, the Falun Gong spiritual group, the 1989 Beijing massacre, pro-Taiwanese independence viewpoints, and various dissident initiatives that challenge the regime on a systemic level.25 These standing taboos are supplemented by regular directives on negative developments such as tainted-food scandals, environmental disasters, and deaths in police custody. Broader politically-oriented terms like “democracy,” “human rights,” and “freedom of speech” are subject to less extensive censorship.Blocking access to foreign websites is a key component of technical filtering. In addition, deep-packet inspection technologies employed by the authorities enable the filtering of particular pages within otherwise approved sites if the pages are found to contain blacklisted keywords in the URL path.27 Filtering by keyword is also implemented in instant-messaging services, such as TOM Skype and QQ, and the necessary software is built into the application upon installation.A large share of censorship is enforced at the level of state-run news outlets and private companies operating a variety of websites. These entities are required by law to ensure—either automatically or manually—that content banned by party and government censorship orders is not posted or circulated widely. They risk losing their business licenses if they fail to comply, and many companies employ large staffs to carry out this task. A series of documents leaked by an employee of the Baidu search engine in April 2009 highlighted both the breadth of topics censored and the complexity of the system used to identify and remove targeted content.29 In October 2010, a general manager at Baidu Tie Ba reportedly Hung Huang, “Censorship in Chinese Media,” Economix, September 25, 2008, http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/25/censorship-in-chinese-media/.
These include, for instance, the prodemocracy manifesto Charter 08 and the Nine Commentaries, a series of editorials analyzing the history of the party and encouraging an end to its rule. See graph, “Inaccessible Sites—Top 100 Google Search Results,” from OpenNet Initiative, Internet Filtering in China in 2004–2005: A Country Study, available at Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, “Written Evidence Submitted by Sarah Cook, Student at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London,” House of Commons, Session 2006–07, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmfaff/269/269we08.htm;
Nart Villeneuve, Breaching Trust: An Analysis of Surveillance and Security Practices on China’s TOM-Skype Platform (Toronto:
Information Warfare Monitor/ONI Asia, 2008), http://www.nartv.org/mirror/breachingtrust.pdf; Julen Madariaga, “Charter 08: Why It Should Be Called Wang,” Chinayourren, January 11, 2009, http://chinayouren.com/eng/2009/01/charter-08-whyit-should-be-called-wang/.
Ashley Esarey and Xiao Qiang, “Digital Communication and Political Change in China,” International Journal of Communication, (2011), 298-319.
Ben Wagner, Deep Packet Inspection and Internet Censorship: International Convergence on an ‘Integrated Technology of Control’ (Global Voices Advocacy, June 25, 2009), http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2009/06/25/study-deep-packet-inspection-andinternet-censorship/.
Xiao Qiang, “A List of Censored Words in Chinese Cyberspace,” China Digital Times, August 30, 2004, http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2004/08/the-words-you-never-see-in-chinese-cyberspace/.
Xiao Qiang, “Baidu’s Internal Monitoring and Censorship Document Leaked (1),” China Digital Times, April 30, 2009, http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2009/04/baidus-internal-monitoring-and-censorship-document-leaked/; Xiao Qiang, “Baidu’s Internal Monitoring and Censorship Document Leaked (2),” China Digital Times, April 29, 2009, http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2009/04/baidus-internal-monitoring-and-censorship-document-leaked-2/; Xiao Qiang, “Baidu’s CHINA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net disclosed that staff deleted approximately one million entries per day in the search engine’s popular function that enables users to create online forums and communities based on keywords.30 Foreign corporations have also been required to implement censorship of political content in order to gain access to the Chinese market. In March 2010, Google announced that it would stop censoring its search results and began redirecting mainland users to its uncensored Hong Kong–based search engine after Chinese officials made it clear that “self-censorship is a non-negotiable legal requirement.”31 The authorities responded by blocking results of searches with flagged keywords that were initiated by mainland users on the Hong Kong engine; access to the Gmail e-mail service and other Google services remained intact as of the end of 2010.
Most postings on blogs, comment sections of news items, and bulletin-board system (BBS) discussions that are deemed objectionable are deleted by company staff before they appear to the public. Such efforts are often temporarily reinforced surrounding politically sensitive events. For example, starting in April 2010, a popular BBS based in Shanghai (KDS Life) announced a ban on commenting between midnight and 7 a.m. in order to create a “harmonious online environment” for the Shanghai Expo; it also warned that anyone posting “harmful” content during the Expo would be subject to serious penalties.32 In other cases, individual blog entries may be deleted after the fact, in most instances within 24 to 48 hours of their posting, or entire blogs may be shut down. In one recent case, the blog of prominent artist and activist Ai Weiwei was shut down in May 2009, following repeated postings that revealed details of children’s deaths in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and aired accusations that they were caused in part by local corruption. The existing censorship techniques have proven insufficient to completely overcome the flexibility of the technology, the sheer volume of communications, and a sometimes intentional disregard for official directives by nonstate actors. A 2008 study of blog-hosting services revealed that domestic censorship varied widely among different sites.34 The CCP Internal Monitoring and Censorship Document Leaked (3),” China Digital Times, April 28, 2009, http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2009/04/baidus-internal-monitoring-and-censorship-document-leaked-3/.
“Zhong Guo Hu Lian Wang Xin Xi Guan Zhi, Baidu Tie Ba Ri Shan Tie Bai Wan” [Chinese Internet Censorship: Baidu Deletes Million Posts], Yazhou Zhoukan, November 7, 2010, http://www.yzzk.com/cfm/Content_Archive.cfmChannel=nt&Path=2212930682/44ntd.cfm (in Chinese).
Ellen Nakashima, Cecilia Kang, and John Pomfret, “Google to Stop Censoring Search Results in China,” Washington Post, March 23, 2010, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/22/AR2010032202041.html.
“Shi Bo Qi Jian Ling Chen 0 Dian – 7 Dian Zhan Ting Fa Tie Ji Hui Tie Gong Gao” [BBS Will Be Down From Midnight to AM During Shanghai EXPO], KDS Life BBS, April 28, 2010, http://club.pchome.net/thread_7_73_5352801.html (in Chinese).
Michael Wines, “China’s Impolitic Artist, Still Waiting to Be Silenced,” New York Times, November 27, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/28/world/asia/28weiwei.html; Simon Elegant, “Ai Weiwei’s Blogs Shuttered; He Declines to ‘Chat’ With Police, Not Politely,” The China Blog, May 29, 2009, http://china.blogs.time.com/2009/05/29/aiweiweis-blogs-shuttered-he-declines-to-chat-with-police/.
Rebecca MacKinnon, “China’s Censorship 2.0: How Companies Censor Bloggers,” First Monday 14, no. 2 (February 2, 2009), http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2378/2089.
CHINA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net and government agencies have taken various actions over the past two years to plug these gaps in the censorship system. They have included the following:
• Antipornography campaign targeting political and social content. On January 5, 2009, seven government agencies announced the launch of a nationwide campaign to more strictly enforce online censorship regulations.35 Ostensibly an effort to purge pornographic material, the campaign was widely seen as a means of tightening control over politically sensitive content.36 Within days of the announcement, Beijing authorities ordered the closure of the blog-hosting website Bullog.cn, which was popular among political commentators and prodemocracy activists, after the site allegedly failed to comply with instructions to remove large amounts of “harmful information” related to current events.37 In early February, numerous e-groups and individual accounts related to political and social issues on the popular Douban.com social-networking site were reportedly deleted or closed.Later in the year, the campaign was extended to online content available via mobile phones.• Tightened control over audio-visual content. On March 30, 2009, the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television issued an edict to tighten the management of online audio-visual content.40 The regulations included a detailed list of content categories to be deleted, such as videos with “depictions of torture” or “distortions of Chinese culture or history,” and those that “hurt the feelings of the public,” “disparage” security forces or leaders, or are posted by “netizen reporters.”The regulations also required service providers to “improve their program content administration” by hiring “well-qualified service personnel to review and filter content.” As part of the implementation of these directives, over 530 audio-visual A list of 19 prominent companies and websites were identified as having failed to purge undesirable content and heed state censors. They included Google, Baidu, Sina, and Sohu. Chris Buckley, “China Targets Big Websites in Internet Crackdown,” Reuters, January 5, 2009, http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKSP36401920090105sp=true.
Rebecca MacKinnon, “China’s Latest Internet Crackdown,” RConversation, January 5, 2009, http://rconversation.blogs.com/rconversation/2009/01/chinas-latest-i.html.
“China Closes 91 Websites in Online Crackdown,” Reuters, January 11, 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5040F120090112; Anita Chang, “Activist Blog Closed Amid China’s Porn Sweep,” Associated Press, January 9, 2009, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28577927/ns/technology_and_sciencetech_and_gadgets/.
Oiwan Lam, “China: E-Group Cleaning at Douban.com,” Global Voices Advocacy, February 9, 2009, http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2009/02/09/china-e-group-cleaning-at-doubancom/.
Juliet Ye, “China’s Anti-Porn Campaign Goes Wireless,” China Real Time Report, December 1, 2009, http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2009/12/01/chinas-anti-porn-campaign-goes-wireless/.
Oiwan Lam, “China: Tightening Control Over Internet Audio-Visual Content,” Global Voices Advocacy, April 1, 2009, http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2009/04/01/china-tightening-control-over-internet-audio-visual-content/.
Freedom House, “Freedom House Dismayed by New Chinese Internet Restrictions,” news release, April 2, 2009, http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfmpage=70&release=800.
CHINA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net websites reportedly had their licenses revoked for noncompliance by September 2009.• Introduction of Green Dam and Blue Shield software. In May 2009, the Chinese authorities announced that as of July 1, all computer manufacturers would be required to install Green Dam Youth Escort filtering software on their products,ostensibly to protect youth from “harmful” content. However, tests by both Chinese and international experts revealed that the program would monitor and filter activity related to politics and religion; one file with thousands of banned characters was explicitly named “FalunWord.lib,” a reference to the persecuted Falun Gong spiritual group to whom the majority of terms in the library related.44 Moreover, Green Dam was capable of shutting down whole applications, such as web browsers or word processors, when certain keywords were typed.45 Green Dam’s vulnerabilities to malicious software and incompatibility with other programs were also noted.
Activists, lawyers, and ordinary users mobilized quickly to protest the directive.