Tag Archives | censorship

China Requiring Websites to Register or Face Blocking

New regulations handed down by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology over the weekend seem to suggest China may be creating a “whitelist” of approved websites. The Ministry said it is now requiring all websites to register, or face possible blocking by the authorities.

China’s latest censorship move seems born out of an effort to limit pornography, however critics seem to see porn being used as an excuse for broader net controls. Whether or not this extends to websites based outside of the country is unclear, although Chinese media is reporting that it will. If it goes through, the strategy would be a complete reversal of the way Chinese Internet regulators were previously doing business.

Under the previous system, websites were blocked on a case by case basis as soon as the Ministry learned about them. Here, everybody seems blacklisted first — and have to prove their non-subversiveness before being allowed into the walled garden that is the Chinese Internet.

The idea may be dead in the water: China could hurt itself economically as those who use the Internet to trade goods may find themselves unable to do business if the foreign site does not register. Additionally, the country does have a fairly long record of coming up with half-baked censorship schemes that are either not enforced or reversed after international outcry. A whitelist is certainly something that would cause the latter, I’d venture to guess.

China also last week limited .cn registrations to business users, Time reported last Friday. As far as I know, it would be the only TLD where private citizens are prohibited from purchasing domains. I wonder if ICANN would have something to say about that.


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China Forcing News Sites to ID Commenters

News sites in China are now being required to obtain the true identities of their commenters, likely in an attempt to suppress and deter so-called “subversive” behavior. Previously, commenters had been offered a bit more anonymity where they could either post without registering at all or with much less personal information.

The new policy took effect last month and requires a real name and government issued identification number. This would positively identify every commenter on top of their already traceable IP address.

It appears from news reports that the government has tried to keep its involvement in the change under wraps, working to suppress reports on the matter in the media. It has worked for much of this decade on bringing a “real name” system to the Chinese Internet, and those in China say this is likely just the beginning.

There’s also another reason why the government didn’t want this publicized: it is unpopular and previous attempts have gotten a lot of blowback. China tried in 2006 to implement the policy on blogs, but after prominent bloggers in the country came out against the new policy and the public also overwhelmingly opposed it, the country backed off.

Local officials tried it too: Hangzhou officials wanted a similar policy for all who post on sites in the city earlier this year, however again public criticism killed the government’s plans.

It is certainly disappointing to see China once again working to curtail their citizens rights. The “subversion” tactic is something they use frequently: in most cases it’s an excuse to prevent free speech. Truly, there isn’t much that can be said that could truly disrupt the country.

What they’re paranoid of is the fact that there is a large portion of their population that wants freedom of speech and to be able to speak out. What China’s learning now is that in the digital age, that’s going to be much harder than ever to control.

(Cross posted from TechPolitik)


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China Allegedly Blocks YouTube

China YouTubeGoogle has found itself on the other side of China’s “great firewall'” of Internet censorship. YouTube is presently inaccessible in China, while its foreign minister has assured Reuters that the ruling party is “not afraid of the Internet.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters that he had no knowledge about YouTube being blocked, but Google confirmed to Reuters that the service is unavailable to users in China. The company said that it was working toward a solution, and avoided placing blame on the Chinese government.

The Chinese government has a longstanding practice of filtering Internet traffic by using techniques such as DNS poisoning. Its targets have traditionally included news, religious groups, and anything else that could be construed as critical of its policies, as well as pornography.

According to Reuters, Qin said that Internet regulation was necessary in order to prevent the spread of,”harmful information and for national security.” He also said that China’s 300 million Internet users and 100 million blogs was proof that China’s Internet was “open enough.”

If the government has objected to YouTube’s content, it is likely that Google may cooperate in censoring it, as it does with Google Web search. In any event, here are some YouTube videos that its citizens are missing, with apologies to the ruling party:

Tiananmen Square Protests:

Tibetan Riots:

Protesting Parents of Earthquake Victims Jailed:

Human Rights: Dissidents Placed in Mental Hospitals:

Petitioners Arrested:

Pollution:

Support for Sudanese War Criminals:


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YouTube Gets a Little Less Sleazy

youtubegYouTube intends to restrict access to content that might be deemed pornographic or profane in a play to broaden its appeal and attract more of the highbrow audience that enjoys watching panda bears sneeze.

In a blog post today, the YouTube team explained the impending changes. In the near future, videos will be algorithmically demoted if they contain sexually suggestive content and naughty words. The video site is also taking measures to place an age restriction on risque content.

Guidelines on what exactly constitutes “sexually suggestive content,” have been published on the YouTube Web site. Some of those are:

* Whether breasts, buttocks, or genitals (clothed or unclothed) are the focal point of the video;

* Whether the video setting is sexually suggestive (e.g. a location generally associated with sexual activity, such as a bed);

* Whether the subject is depicted in a pose that is intended to sexually arouse the viewer;

* Whether the subject’s actions in the video suggests a willingness to engage in sexual activity (e.g. kissing, provocative dancing, fondling); and

* If a subject is minimally clothed, whether the clothing would be acceptable in appropriate public contexts (e.g. swimwear vs. underwear).

There is sure to be some collateral damage resulting from these guidelines, but if one child is speared spared the graphic image of a middle-aged man wearing a poorly fitting Speedo, the future will be a little bit brighter for all of us. The question of when booty poppin goes too far remains open to interpretation.

Additional changes will affect how thumbnails are generated, and revised guidelines for tags, titles, and other metadata may lead to more accurate descriptions of videos.

Feedback left by YouTube users about the blog posting was largely negative. One read, “Youtube was not meant to be a family site. If it continues in this direction it will destroy the basic mission and user base of the site.” Others, however, welcomed the proposed changes as “great news” and “overdue.”


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