Wake Up Call?

Two Chinese-language blogs, Massage Milk and Milk Pig, replaced their blogs with this text: Due to unavoidable reasons with which everyone is familiar, this blog is temporarily closed.

The BBC and other media quickly reported the closure and added, as fact, that the “Chinese authorities” had shutdown the blogs. In fact, the blogs had not been shutdown, the bloggers “temporaily closed” themselves to demonstrate how “irresponsible” the Western Press is. One of the bloggers told Interfax:

“I just wanted to make fun of Western journalists? [content] doesn’t need to be serious on the Internet. I don’t like it that Western media take a distorted view of China, though China does have problems,” Wang told Interfax in an emailed statement, “I thought that if I closed my blog, it would stir their imagination and then they would begin blah blah. It really is as expected. So let’s they have an April Fool’s day in advance.”

I have been asking the media to stop exaggerating for some time. There is plenty of real Internet censorship going on in China, there really is no need for, as BBC reporter Sebastian Usher (the person who wrote the original BBC report) stated, “a knee-jerk reaction amongst journalists… to stories that seem to show the Chinese cracking down on freedom of expression on the Internet” or what Danwei describes as “sensationalism”.

The lesson here is not just that reporters should fact check, I’d say that’s pretty clear. Its that when it comes to China and Internet censorship there seems to be a different playing field. Sometimes it seems that China is the only country in the world that censors the Internet or, at least, the only one that anyone seems to care about. And whether it is the media or Congress there appears to be a frame of misconceptions through which Internet censorship in China is interpreted.

When myth is treated as fact and assumptions go unchallenged we all get fooled. :)

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