If I say, China is not the freest country on earth, you wouldn’t be flabbergasted. If I say, China infringes human rights on a daily basis, you wouldn’t be either. However, I’m always appalled by the schizophrenic Chinese government behavior in terms of Internet freedom. On the one hand, you have at your disposal a large variety of websites proposing free download or streaming services. On these sites you are allowed to watch movies and download music, which obviously, most of them have been illegally uploaded. Luckily for the Chinese citizens that their country has not been part of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement negotiations!
On the other hand, rights to navigate freely on the World Wide Web have been largely overridden. No need to mention that in China you don’t have access (unless you use a VPN) to Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, as well as most of the Google images (only God knows why…). One of the last inventions of the Chinese government was the so-called Green Dam project. To simplify, software would be installed on your computer to prevent you from surfing on forbidden websites (such as porn). Since pornography in Chinese society is very badly perceived, the government has been at war with such websites. The main idea behind (at least the official one) is to protect the youth from having ‘immoral’ behaviors. This project could have been served as a pretext to further control your navigation on the web. Fortunately, it has been more or less abandoned.
But it does not mean that the Chinese government does not check on you while you are naively surfing on the Internet. I recently discovered a new funny game, which could be called: ‘find-the-word-that-would-screw-up-your-Internet-connection-for-a-while’. One hint: it starts with an ‘f’ and ends with ‘reedom’. The principle is rather simple, google several words that might be considered as ‘sensitive’, by the government. So, back to the game: ‘Tibet’ works, ‘Falun Gong’ as well and you have some results. It’s just that the links often don’t. Interestingly enough, if you google the word ‘freedom’, your browser will display an error message and your Internet connection will be disabled for a while.
All of this is based on the lousy argument that the government protects you against your evil demeanors. Watch out ‘freedom’ then, it’s a dangerous animal!
The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.