Saturday, January 22, 2011

Atop the Great Firewall of China

When I was in Shanghai last month, one of the first things to hit me was just how prevalent Internet censorship is in China. Dubbed the Great Firewall, China's Internet restriction policies are widespread and, arguably, the most extensive in the world. In fact, one of the main reasons there were no new blog posts from that period was because Blogger is blocked. For that matter, so is Facebook, Twitter, and a whole host of other commonly used online tools. Speaking of Facebook, someone from my old team there created a stunning data visualization of Facebook friendships around the world that illustrate the Great Firewall quite well.

As many commentators have pointed out, there's an awfully glaring hole in this world map: China's nowhere to be seen. In addition to general censorship of the Internet, China also employs a small army of "Internet police", rumored to number over 50,000, who "guide discussion" in online forums, or to put it more bluntly, disseminate propaganda. The government also monitors the Internet activity of individual citizens, specifically ones suspected of dissidence. To this point, Amnesty International points out that China has actually imprisoned more journalists and cyber-dissidents than any other country in the world. As an American, I have to admit it was quite jarring to all of a sudden not have the same liberties that I've grown up with. I wonder how the actual inhabitants of the country come to deal with the restrictions or if they even have an impact on people's day to day lives. Perhaps I'll just have to go back to find out for myself...

1 comment:

fang said...

yeah it's really annoying and people had to use Chinese 'facebook' (, and Chinese 'twitter'.