Blogging, Self-Censorship & China



Imagethief has a great post entitled “Sanitized For My Protection: Imagethief’s Self-Censorship Policy Explained”. Imagethief explains the “pragmatic reasons” for self-censorship in China from a peronsal perspective, but I think the reasoning likely holds true across the spectrum of bloggers. Most people do not blog anonymously. There is reason for a little paranoia — there are internet police in China, though the number remains in question — and its possible that one’s boss or someone from work could stumble across one’s blog aswell. And in China there’s the added risk of having one blog blocked. Imagetheif writes:

I don’t spend much time on arch-taboo subjects. I don’t generally talk about Tiananmen Square in the 1989 context both because that is a lightning-rod issue and because there are people much better able to comment on it than I am. I don’t talk about certain quasi-religious movements that China has banned (and, as you can see, I have not even mentioned them by name). Sometimes I wish I could, but that seems like a fast road to exile behind the Great Firewall.

China’s technical Internet filtering capacity is accompanied by non-technical means of information control including laws and regulations, industry self-discipline, mandatory registrations as well as imprisonment. Together, these technical and non-technical measures create an information control policy that fosters a climate of self-censorship. Its effectiveness is not rooted in technology, rather, it is rooted in social self-control. This is a key point in any discussion of Internet censorship in China.

This directly relates to something I’ve stated before and will state again: Those interested in issues of Internet censorship and surveillance should make an increased effort to demystify the technology being used, be more accurate and thorough when investigating these issues, and avoid speculative scenarios that overestimate what countries like China can do to control information.

Here’s why: the exaggeration of China’s Internet censorship feeds into rumors which reinforce the climate of self-censorship.

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