China’s 600 Million Searchers Push Global Internet Toward Censorship

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Greatfire.org, monitors Internet censorship in China by bringing transparency and surveying blocked websites. In June of this year on the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, a Hong-Kong based researcher, named Patrick Poon who works for Amnesty International, posted a video on his LinkedIn webpage to commemorate the 1989 pro-democracy protests; only to receive a message that the post was prohibited in China and informing him it had been blocked from the site. According to Greatfire.org, China had set up hundreds of fake Twitter accounts to dissuade marchers from participating in the commemoration assembly.

Free Tibet, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based out of London claims it also found 100 fake Twitter accounts featuring tweets that praised China’s rule over the territory. As Chinese companies further their expansion overseas, they have been accused of similar practices as the law to censor topics like the Tiananmen Square protests, requires them. Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are also among China as countries with online censorship practices where the Internet and digital media are “not free”, according to Freedom House, a global independent organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world, based in Washington DC and New York.

Since Patrick Poon posted his video, LinkedIn, the biggest U.S. social-media company active in China, has changed its policy, making content that is censored in China visible outside the country. In February LinkedIn launched its Chinese-language platform for connecting Chinese professionals and took heat for agreeing to block posts being sensitive to China but has since reversed that policy. However, Chinese regulators block access to other U.S. sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s messaging app WeChat service is advancing in India, Argentina and Brazil. While facing restrictions in China, the technology blog, Tech in Asia, (also an online news site) stated WeChat was blocking sensitive words for users globally. Tencent’s response was that the block was a result of a “technical glitch”.

The Chinese search-engine operator Baidu Inc. has also been criticized for its overseas practices. A lawsuit was filed by a group of pro-democracy activists who complained that Baidu illegally suppressed political speech by blocking search results in the United States. In March, a judge dismissed the case, saying the First Amendment protected Baidu’s right to filter the search results. According to Greatfire.org, Chinese-language search results for Microsoft’s Bing search engine show a higher proportion of results from government-friendly websites due to traffic of those websites being higher. Microsoft claims it doesn’t apply China’s legal requirements to searches from outside the country.

At the first global Web summit hosted by the Chinese government’s cyberspace regulator this week in Wuzhen, participants included Chief Executive Officers of mostly Chinese companies – Sohu, Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba Group Holding, Ltd. as well as Japan’s SoftBank Corp. and Qualcomm Inc., the U.S. chipmaker. One of the core topics is to demonstrate that China is ready to assume greater responsibility over Internet governance and development especially since China has the largest Internet population and four of the top ten Internet companies.

China, Russia and other countries from the Middle East want to see governance under the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union. The newly appointed head of the Union, Chinese national, Zhao Houlin advocates for a greater role for government in the development of the Web, stating governments should have a bigger say over the allocation of IP addresses, the virtual address that allows computers to communicate over the Web and also stated that the U.S. had too many addresses relative to China.

Since China has approximately 850 million mobile users, the most in the world, Chinese officials feel they have something to show other countries about their method of how to manage the Internet and want to play a role in establishing “order” outside of China. With the Chinese government heavy on censorship, should China be able to impart their practices on foreign content? How would it affect U.S. companies such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. to conduct business with the bottom line being revenue, if governments oversaw and regulated content?

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-21/whose-internet-is-it-anyway-china-wields-more-influence.html

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