With added pressure from the international business community, foreign governments, and human rights groups, the authorities withdrew the order the day before the July 1 deadline.46 Installation reportedly continued in schools and cybercafes, though some later removed it because it obstructed other crucial programs.47 In September 2009, reports emerged of technical filtering being moved from the internet backbone down to ISPs via the installation of a program referred to as Blue Shield/Dam.48 Though no comprehensive studies have been conducted to date, the apparent impact of these installations has been more systematic automated filtering within China and tighter blocks on circumvention software.49 In July 2010, “Shi Wan Zhong Xiao Wang Zhan Han Dong Duan Wang” [Licenses of a Hundred Thousand Websites Revoked during Winter], Southern Metropolis Weekly, January 18, 2010, http://www.nbweekly.com/Print/Article/9591_0.shtml (in Chinese).
Oiwan Lam, “China: Green Dam PC Filtering,” Global Voices Advocacy, June 8, 2009, http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2009/06/08/china-green-dam-pc-filtering/; Andrew Jacobs, “China Requires Censorship Software on New PCs,” New York Times, June 8, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/09/world/asia/09china.html.
Scott Wolchok, Randy Yao, and J. Alex Halderman, “Analysis of the Green Dam Censorware System,” Computer Science and Engineering Division, University of Michigan, June 18, 2009, http://www.cse.umich.edu/~jhalderm/pub/gd/. For the contents of the FalunWord.lib file see: http://www.cse.umich.edu/~jhalderm/pub/gd/data/falunword.php.
Hal Roberts, “China Bans the Letter ‘F,’” Watching Technology, June 12, 2009, http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/hroberts/2009/06/12/china-bans-the-letter-f/.
Ian Paul, “Has China’s Green Dam Burst” PCWorld, July 1, 2009, http://www.pcworld.com/article/145302/has_chinas_green_dam_burst.html.
Reuters, “Chinese Schools Quietly Remove Green Dam Filter,” PC Magazine, September 15, 2009, http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2352847,00.asp.
Reporters Without Borders, “Is China Imposing More Powerful Version of Green Dam, Called Blue Shield” news release, September 18, 2009, http://en.rsf.org/china-is-china-imposing-more-powerful-18-09-2009,34518.html; Oiwan Lam, “China:
Blue Dam Activated,” Global Voices Advocacy, September 13, 2009, http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2009/09/13/china-blue-dam-activated/.
CHINA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net six internet security systems functionally similar to Green Dam were forced to be installed on computers in schools, hotels, and cybercafs in Guangdong Province and were reportedly promoted in other provinces including Jiangsu and Hebei.50 As the censorship is taking place at the network or local level and does not impose requirements on foreign companies, it has not provoked significant domestic or international backlash.
• More deliberate favoritism toward Chinese brands. Despite increased privatization and competition, China’s economic environment remains dominated by the government. Particularly in the case of large companies, success often depends on close relationships with the CCP and relevant officials. Both Chinese officials and independent analysts have attributed the market dominance of locally-managed internet firms such as Baidu51 over international brands such as Google at least in part to government favoritism, noting the authorities’ interest in promoting Chinese companies that will comply more readily with government-imposed content restrictions than foreign firms.52 In recent years, this strategy has been applied more deliberately to an expanded set of applications, such as video-sharing, microblogging, and social-networking platforms. The result is a “commercialization of censorship,” whereby efficient and obedient filtering becomes a key factor in business competition.
Realizing that they are unable to entirely control online content, and increasingly viewing cyberspace as a field for “ideological struggle,”53 the Chinese authorities in recent years have also introduced measures to proactively sway public opinion online and amplify the Communist Party's version of events over alternative accounts. This effort has taken a number of forms.
First, online news portals are prohibited from producing their own content and are only authorized to repost information from state-run traditional media. “Lv Ba Bien Shen Tou Tou Juan Tu Chong Lai, Dang Jv Qiang Zhi An Zhuang Jian Kong Ruan Jian” [Green Dam Returns in a Discrete Manner, Authorities Require Mandatory Installation of Monitoring Software], Radio Free Asia Mandarin, July 30, 2010, http://www.rfa.org/mandarin/yataibaodao/lb-07302010095804.html (in Chinese).
It should be noted that, although locally-managed, Baidu has some international shareholders as well as Chinese. See:
iDataCenter Research Service, “Bai Du Shang Shi Hou de Gu Fen Jie Gou Qing Kuang” [Baidu’s shareholder situation after its listing on the market], 2005, http://irs.iresearch.com.cn/Consulting/search_engine/Graph.aspid=7508 (in Chinese).
Jordan Calinoff, “Where Google Loses,” Foreign Policy, September 29, 2009, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/09/29/where_google_loses; Translation of speech by Peng Bo, Deputy Chief of the State Council Information Office Internet Affairs Bureau, “The Main Problems Relating to Internet News Propaganda,” China Digital Times, December 17, 2009, http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2009/12/peng-bo-%E5%BD%AD%E6%B3%A2%E2%80%9Cthe-main-problems-relating-to-internet-news-propaganda%E2%80%9D/.
Oiwan Lam, “China: The Internet as an Ideology Battlefield,” Global Voices Advocacy, January 6, 2010, http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2010/01/06/china-internet-as-an-ideology-battlefield/.
Interim Provisions on the Administration of Internet Websites Engaged in News Posting Operations (November 1, 2000), excerpts available at http://www.cecc.gov/pages/virtualAcad/exp/explaws.php.
CHINA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net Second, in addition to removal orders, propaganda directives are often accompanied by specific instructions to marginalize or amplify certain content, for instance through its position on a homepage or by relying exclusively on the version of events produced by the official Xinhua news agency. Thus in March 2010, during the annual meeting period of the National People’s Congress, one set of leaked guidelines reportedly included instructions that “no negative news [is] allowed on the front pages of newspapers or the headline news sections of websites.”Third, since 2005, paid web commentators known collectively as the 50 Cent Party or Red Vests have been recruited to post progovernment remarks, lead online discussions in accordance with the party line, and report users who have posted offending statements.
Some estimates place the number of these commentators at over 250,000.56 In 2009, this strategy appeared to become both more institutionalized and more decentralized, with commentators trained and used by “government units at all levels.”57 For instance, in January 2010 it was reported that Gansu provincial authorities had decided to establish a cadre of 650 online progovernment commentators;58 in December 2010, Chongqing’s municipal authorities created a Red Microblog platform to spread pro-Communist Party messages;59 and in the aftermath of the Urumqi violence in Xinxiang, the authorities there enlisted local Communist Youth League members to be online “supervisors.”Fourth, mobile-phone communication is now treated as another medium for spreading party ideology. In 2010, a campaign was launched to encourage the dissemination of progovernment “Red text messages” through economic incentives.61 It is difficult to gauge the effectiveness of these manipulation efforts. On the one hand, there have been cases in which online public opinion rapidly turned in the government’s favor.62 On the other hand, “What Chinese Censors Don’t Want You to Know,” New York Times, March 21, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/22/world/asia/22banned.html.
David Bandurski, “China’s Guerrilla War for the Web,” Far Eastern Economic Review (July 2008), http://feer.wsj.com/essays/2008/august/chinas-guerrilla-war-for-the-web.
David Bandurski, “Internet Spin for Stability Enforcers,” China Media Project, May 25, 2010, http://cmp.hku.hk/2010/05/25/6112/.
Qian Gang, “How Much Internet Freedom Do Chinese Citizens Have” China Media Project, January 28, 2010, http://cmp.hku.hk/2010/01/28/4355/.
Malcolm Moore, “China Launches Red Twitter,” Telegraph, December 15, 2010, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/8203593/China-launches-Red-Twitter.html.
Jonathan Ansfield, “China Starts to Lift Region’s Web Blackout,” New York Times, December 30, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/30/world/asia/30xinjiang.html.
Chen Jian, “Zhong Guo Liu Qian Wan Ren Can Yu Zhuan Fa Shou Ji ‘Hong Duan Zi’” [Sixty Million People Have Participated in ‘Red Text Message’ Efforts], Beijing Ren Min Wang, March 16, 2010.
http://news.163.com/10/0316/21/61U6BNGM000146BD.html (in Chinese); “Hong Duan Zi Zhi ‘Ai Wo Zhong Hua Chuang Ye Guang Dong’ Wang Luo Chuang Ye Da Sai - - Mei Li Yang Jiang” [China Telecom: Red Text Message – ‘Love in China, Opportunities in Guang Dong’ Writing Contest], Baidu, August 21, 2008, http://hi.baidu.com/liming10liming/blog/item/24de0a234ea6cbfad6cae224.html (in Chinese).
Michael Bristow, “China’s Internet ‘Spin Doctors,’” BBC, December 16, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asiapacific/7783640.stm.
CHINA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net participants in online discussion groups have become increasingly adept at identifying Cent Party members and express a dismissive attitude toward their comments.
Following the October 2010 announcement that jailed democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the Chinese authorities activated the full range of above-mentioned measures to restrict the circulation of unofficial news and commentary related to the award, as well as limit citizens’ direct access to Liu’s writings. In addition, on October 17, 2010, in an effort to sway domestic public opinion, the state-run People’s Daily published a commentary framing Liu as a political tool of nefarious Western forces aiming to interfere in China’s internal affairs. In December, the empty seat left for Liu during the award ceremony in Oslo became a key censorship target. Phrases such as “empty chair,” “empty stool,” and “empty table” flooded the Chinese cyberspace for a few hours, but were quickly and consistently deleted by staff at the Sina Weibo microblogging platform, the social-networking website Renren, and other new media applications.63 In addition, authorities disrupted the internet and mobile-phone connections of dozens of prominent activists and bloggers across China. Such actions appeared aimed, among other things, at inhibiting activists’ ability to use channels such as the Twitter microblogging service to spread news of the award within China. Reflecting the pervasiveness of government efforts to quash discussion of the prize, on the day of the ceremony, the most discussed topics on the popular web portal Sina appeared to be the cold weather and flight delays at Beijing's airport.64 Though some users succeeded in circumventing censorship surrounding the award, official and unofficial accounts indicated that fewer than 15 percent of people in China had heard of Liu.A variety of national and local government agencies are involved in internet censorship, with some instructions coming from the highest echelons of the Communist Party.66 While much of this apparatus has remained unchanged, two notable adjustments have taken place since early 2009. First, the CCP’s Propaganda Department has sought to exercise greater and more specific control over the decision-making process at entities like the MIIT and the State Council Information Office (SCIO), at times coercing them into Matthew Campbell and Roger Boyes, “Beijing Wipes Web of Photo of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo’s Empty Chair,” The Australian, December 13, 2010, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/beijing-wipes-web-of-pic-of-nobel-peaceprize-winner-liu-xiaobos-empty-chair/story-e6frg6so-1225969772445; Peter Foster, “Nobel Peace Prize: Beijing Under a Censorship Shroud,” Telegraph, December 10, 2010, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8194247/Nobel-peace-prize-Beijing-under-a-censorshipshroud.html.
Andrew Jacobs, “Tirades Against Nobel Aim at Audience in China,” New York Times, December 10, 2010, https://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/11/world/asia/11china.html_r=1&ref=asia.
Cara Anna, “Some Chinese Elude Censorship of Nobel Prize News,” Associated Press, December 8, 2010, http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStoryid=12340665&page=3; Jacobs, “Tirades Against Nobel Aim at Audience in China.” See, for example, Politburo involvement in planning the response to the Nobel Peace Prize and Politburo member Liu Changchun’s orders to state-run firms to stop doing business with Google: Jacobs, “Tirades Against Nobel Aim at Audience in China”; James Glanz and John Markoff, “Vast Hacking by a China Fearful of the Web,” New York Times, December 4, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/05/world/asia/05wikileaks-china.htmlpagewanted=1&_r=3.
CHINA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net actions that are contrary to their own vested interests. Second, in April 2010, the government confirmed that it had created a new entity under the SCIO: Bureau 9, tasked with monitoring and coordinating the authorities’ response to user-generated content, particularly on social-networking sites and online forums.Censorship decisions are largely non-transparent, though some private companies are known to alert readers that content has been removed for unspecified reasons. No avenue exists for appealing censorship decisions. Aware of the comprehensive nature of surveillance and censorship on the internet and mobile-phone text messaging, ordinary users and bloggers engage in extensive self-censorship and often refrain from transmitting sensitive comments.