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    Reporters Without Borders said in it’s 2005 special report titled “Xinhua: the world’s biggest propaganda agency”, that “Xinhua remains the voice of the sole party”, “particularly during the SARS epidemic, Xinhua has for last few months been putting out news reports embarrassing to the government, but they are designed to fool the international community, since they are not published in Chinese.”
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Archive for the ‘Freedom of Information’ Category

China Closes Down The Internet– make the country more like North Korea

Posted by Author on December 26, 2009


Gordon G. Chang, The Forbes, 12.25.09 –

This week, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released regulations, dated Dec. 15, requiring the registration of all Web sites.

MIIT’s justification was the need to eliminate sexual content. As a Ministry spokesman stated, “This is about mobile pornography, it’s not referring to any other issue.”

The explanation, however comforting it sounds, is disingenuous. The wording of the rules is broad enough to cover all sites, domestic and foreign, whether or not they carry sex-themed material. “Domain names that have not registered will not be resolved or transferred,” the regulations state. In other words, unregistered sites will become unavailable to users in China.

Today, Beijing blocks a multitude of sites, in effect creating a blacklist. Under the new system, there will be a “whitelist”: only registered sites will be accessible inside the country. Once the regulation is fully implemented, China will no longer have an Internet. In effect, it will downgrade to an intranet. At this moment, there are perhaps 270 million Web sites across the world, and only a miniscule number of them will register with the Chinese authorities.

Of course, the whitelist system, which is to be implemented in three phases next year, is completely incompatible with a modern society such as China’s. Already, the country’s traditionally noisy netizens are complaining. They flooded a Twitter-like service run by the Communist Party’s flagship publication People’s Daily, causing the site to be immediately taken down. Moreover, official publications have expressed caution about putting the sweeping rules into effect. Foreign governments are bound to get in on the act because the expansive regulations, by blocking access to business sites, probably constitute a violation of China’s trade obligations.

MIIT tried a similar stunt this spring with its requirement that the so-called Green Dam-Youth Escort filtering software be installed in all computers sold in China from July 1. The Ministry justified this rule on pornography grounds, but many suspect the software was intended to block unwanted political content. After an uproar–from both home and abroad–Chinese authorities admitted they had made a mistake and backed down.

Yet they did not give up. Earlier this month, the country’s top police officer, Meng Jianzhu, publicly said that China’s Internet monitoring–perhaps the most effective in the world–was not good enough. At the time, it appeared he was just moaning, as public security officials have been doing for years. But this week it became clear Meng was getting the public ready for a really spectacular set of regulations……. (more details from The Forbes)

Posted in Blacklist, censorship, China, Freedom of Information, Human Rights, Internet, News, Social, Technology, World | Comments Off on China Closes Down The Internet– make the country more like North Korea

China Blocks Singapore Site

Posted by Author on December 15, 2009


Radio Free Asia, Dec. 15, 2009-

HONG KONG—The Web site of an influential Singapore news organization has been blocked in China since late Monday for unknown reasons, according to Chinese netizens and staff at the newspaper.

Lianhe Zaobao, or The United Morning News, is a Chinese-language newspaper whose Web site, zaobao.com, could previously be accessed in China without using any firewall-scaling software.

A netizen in China’s northeastern province of Jilin, who asked to remain anonymous, said in an interview he was unable to access the site.

“I am now clicking on Singapore’s zaobao.com, but can’t open it. On the screen there is a message that says ‘The Web page is not accessible,’” the netizen said.

“I used to be able to get on the site but it can no longer be read,” he said.

In an interview on Tuesday, an employee of the Lianhe Zaobao newspaper’s advertising department in China confirmed the erasure of zaobao.com from the Chinese online browsing list.

“The Web site has been blocked and you can’t open it. We don’t know the reason,” he said.

A staff member in the China advertising department at Lianhe Zaobao’s headquarters in Singapore also confirmed the closure of its Web site in China.

“The site can’t be accessed in China since [Monday], and it is inconvenient for me to talk about the reason. But as far as I know, this is because of technical problems on the Chinese side,” the staff member said.

When asked if the shutdown was due to any reporting that would be viewed as sensitive in China, the Singapore-based staff member declined to comment.

Calls to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the governing body that monitors China’s Internet content, went unanswered.

Sensitive article

Lianhe Zaobao is seen as an amicable media outlet in China, and its Web page was previously one of the extremely few overseas Chinese language media sites to remain unblocked.

But cyber analysts in China say the Monday shutdown is likely related to a recent article Lianhe Zaobao ran headlined “Cyber Crackdown in China Angers Netizens.”

Beijing-based cyber expert Xun Jian, whose own Web site, The Future Society, was censored recently, warned that China would pay a price for the Internet crackdown……. (more details)

Posted in Asia, censorship, China, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Internet, News, Politics, Technology, website, World | Comments Off on China Blocks Singapore Site

China Lawyer Detained For Teaching College Students About Online Censorship

Posted by Author on November 30, 2009


Radio Free asia, 2009-11-30 –

HONG KONG—A civil rights lawyer says he was detained by police in southern China for teaching a class to college students about online censorship and the use of a popular microblogging service.

Tang Jingling, a lawyer based in Guangdong’s provincial capital Guangzhou, said he was invited by a teacher surnamed Xu to the Guangzhou College of Vocational Technology on Nov. 27 to lecture students there on the Internet and its applications.

Instead, he said, he was interrupted by a member of the campus security force who was auditing the class, and was told to show his identification before being led away by police.

“When a teacher delivers a lecture, he should have all the rights over the content. But when I was in the classroom, a staff member from the school’s security division was sitting there, intimidating teachers,” Tang said.

“He even called the police to threaten the teachers and students. This was a joke and the biggest derision to academic freedom,” he said.

At the police station, Tang was questioned and barred from making phone calls.

Police threatened to keep him in custody for 24 hours.

News of Tang’s detention spread quickly on Twitter, enabling some netizens to immediately rush to the scene and call for his release.

Police allowed Tang Jingling to leave early Saturday, after three to four hours of questioning.

Twitter targeted

Tang admonished the authorities for shutting down his lecture, which included a talk on the use of the Twitter microblogging service.

“Twitter is just a tool to acquire knowledge and information, which can increase the skills of the students and ready them for tomorrow’s society. The way I was treated is really ridiculous,” he added.

Twitter has been censored several times by Chinese authorities following deadly ethnic riots in the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region last July.

But China’s netizens say it is impossible for authorities to completely control Twitter due to the service’s inherently open characteristics and joke that “the day Twitter is shut down, pigs will climb trees.”

In fact, signs seem to indicate that an increasing number of China’s netizens are joining Twitter and using the service to pass on news.

Feng Zhenghu, a cyber-dissident who has been stranded in Tokyo’s Narita airport seeking the right to return to China, said that since registering as a user on the site on Nov. 13, he has received nearly 500 messages.

“In my inbox there are several hundred tweets, mostly from Chinese people expressing their concern and support,” Feng said.

Guangzhou-based cyber-activist Bei Feng said that Twitter is considered “a tool of subversion” by some Chinese security personnel.

“As far as I know, leading Chinese Web sites and forums were all cautioned not to discuss Twitter, which may now be monitored by special task forces,” Bei said.

“The Chinese authorities are always on high alert against Twitter, wanting to cut it off entirely,” he said…….(more detals from Radio Free Asia)

Posted in censorship, China, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, Guangdong, Guangzhou, Human Rights, Internet, Law, Lawyer, News, People, Politics, SE China, Student, Technology, World | Comments Off on China Lawyer Detained For Teaching College Students About Online Censorship

U.S. government slow-walks congressional initiatives of supporting Internet freedom in countries such as China

Posted by Author on November 22, 2009


The Washington Post, Saturday, November 21, 2009 –

THE MOST interesting question President Obama fielded in China came over the Internet, via the U.S. Embassy, from a Chinese citizen who asked, “Do you know of the firewall? Should we be able to use Twitter freely?” In response, Mr. Obama, speaking at a town hall in Shanghai, did not directly address China’s massive Internet censorship operation — “the firewall” — and he confessed that he does not use Twitter. But he said, “I’m a big supporter of not restricting Internet use, Internet access, other information technologies like Twitter.”

No doubt that’s correct. And, just as likely, Mr. Obama is not aware that his State Department not only is doing next to nothing to support Internet freedom in countries such as China, but that it also has been slow-walking congressional initiatives to do so.

For two years Congress has appropriated funds to support groups that are developing ways to circumvent the Chinese firewall and those erected in Iran, Burma, Cuba and other repressive countries. The most prominent of the groups, the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, says it has the capacity to host 1.5 million users daily. Its technology works: Shiyu Zhou, the deputy director of the consortium, testified to the U.S. Helsinki Commission last month that at the height of opposition protests on June 20, more than 1 million Iranians used the system. He said that with $30 million of additional funding, capacity could be increased to 50 million users a day, making it “prohibitively expensive for any repressive government to counter our efforts.”

A bipartisan coalition that includes Sens. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) has been trying to channel the necessary funding. A total of $20 million has been included in the past two State Department budgets, and $30 million more is pending in the Senate’s version of the 2010 budget. But State hasn’t passed the money on to the firewall-busters. Instead it gave the lion’s share of its 2008 appropriation to a group that specializes in conducting media studies and training journalists, and it has failed to distribute the 2009 funds, even though the fiscal year ended nearly three weeks ago. The department says it is increasing the staff dedicated to working on Internet freedom issues and that it is funding some “implementing partners” that it won’t identify.

Still, no money is going to the one organization with a proven record of overcoming firewalls. The group’s advocates suspect that that’s because the Global Internet Freedom Consortium is identified with China’s banned Falun Gong movement — and State is fearful of Beijing’s reaction to any U.S. support for it. The Obama administration has already done plenty to appease the Chinese regime. The least it can do is act on the president’s own words about the value of free information — and help give Chinese their chance to Twitter.

The Washington Post

Posted in Anti-censorship, break net-block, China, Freedom of Information, Human Rights, Internet, News, People, Politics, Software, Technology, USA, World | 1 Comment »

NTD TV to Appeal French Court’s dismissal of investigating Eutelsat’s shutdown of satellite broadcasts to China

Posted by Author on November 18, 2009


New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV), Nov.18, 2009 –

Paris, November 18, 2009 – The Paris Commercial Court has dealt a set-back to NTDTV’s request to appoint an independent investigator to examine fully Eutelsat’s June 2008 shutdown of NTDTV’s satellite broadcasts to China. In reviewing the court’s decision, the channel’s legal counsel expressed surprise that the judge dismissed the case on technical grounds while ignoring the compelling evidence presented in a report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), in which Eutelsat’s Beijing representative admitted NTDTV’s uncensored programming was cut off as a goodwill gesture to the Chinese regime.

NTDTV spokesperson Carrie Hung expressed disappointment that the court’s judgment yesterday did not address, and neither did Eutelsat refute, the RSF recorded evidence demonstrating Eutelsat’s pre-meditated and discriminatory decision to silence NTDTV. “When we presented this same set of evidence to the European Parliament at the beginning of the year, the MEPs found there was sufficient cause to pass a resolution censuring Eutelsat for its actions and calling for an independent investigation into the company’s conduct,” stated Ms. Hung.

Ms. Hung said that NTDTV is confident of its case if its evidence receives a full and fair hearing. She confirmed that the channel will appeal to the next level in the French legal system, in order to seek full accountability and transparency in Eutelsat’s shutdown of the world’s only non-governmental Chinese-language TV broadcast to China.

NTDTV Contact:
Carrie Hung, NTDTV Spokesperson, 917-319-0219, carrie.hung@ntdtv.com

###

About New Tang Dynasty Television

Established in 2001, New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) is a non-profit television broadcaster and the only independent Chinese-language television to broadcast into China. NTDTV is dedicated to providing objective, uncensored news to Chinese residents. As a vital news source, NTDTV reported on the SARS outbreak in China three weeks before Beijing admitted to its existence. NTDTV also reports on environmental and human rights issues in China, generating awareness among Chinese residents important issues their government withholds from them.

NTDTV

Posted in China, Europe, Freedom of Information, Human Rights, Law, Media, News, NTDTV, TV / film, World | Comments Off on NTD TV to Appeal French Court’s dismissal of investigating Eutelsat’s shutdown of satellite broadcasts to China

China’s pre-emptive response to Obama’s free flow of information comments?

Posted by Author on November 16, 2009


Reporters Without Borders, 16 November 2009 –

As US President Barack Obama used the Shanghai leg of his China visit to call for an end to online censorship, it emerged that a Chinese court has sentenced Tibetan writer and photographer Kunga Tseyang to five years in prison on various charges including posting articles on the Internet. Two days before, literary website editor Kunchok Tsephel has meanwhile been sentenced to 15 years in prison on a charge of “divulging state secrets”.

“Was this the Chinese government’s pre-emptive response to the US president’s very clear defence of the free flow of information,” Reporters Without Borders asked. “Either way, we hope the central government will overturn such heavy prison sentences, which two Tibetan writers have been given just for expressing their views. We deplore the increased repression since the major protests in Tibet in March 2008.”

Reporters Without Borders has learned that Tseyang, who is also know by the pen-name Gangnyi (Snow Sun), was given the five-year sentence by a court in the western province of Gansu on 14 November 2009 after being found guilty of writing “separatist” articles, posting them online and having contact with a Buddhist monk based in India. The authorities objected in particular to his posting articles on the website Zindris……. (more details from Reporters Without Borders)

Posted in censorship, China, ethnic, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Internet, Law, News, People, Politics, SW China, Technology, Tibet, World, writer, Xizang | Comments Off on China’s pre-emptive response to Obama’s free flow of information comments?

Berlin Twitter Wall website blocked by China just days after its launch

Posted by Author on November 4, 2009


Reporters Without Borders, 3 November 2009 –

Reporters Without Borders deplores the fact that the Chinese authorities blocked the Berlin Twitter Wall website (www.berlintwitterwall.com) just days after its launch on 20 October and urges the government to allow its citizens to access this special Twitter site, which is dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The site allows people to express their comments about the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 and their related hopes and wishes. The initiative has had a great response, including in China, where nearly 2,000 Internet users had left a message on the virtual wall – most of them demanding an end to censorship in China – before access was blocked.

“Chinese Internet users must not be prevented from accessing the Berlin Twitter Wall,” said Reporters Without Borders, which supports this interactive campaign. “Initiatives like these are important platforms for the promotion of freedom of speech as well as for critical voices and protest.”

The press freedom organisation added: “Just a few weeks ago, at the Frankfurt Book Fair, Chinese representatives argued in favour of the promotion of cultural exchange. Yet many foreign news outlets and social-networking sites remain inaccessible to Chinese users.”

The Berlin Twitter Wall website was launched by Kulturprojekte Berlin as part of the celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall. By using the hashtag #fotw (fall of the wall), Twitter account holders can post comments wall that appear automatically on the berlintwitterwall.com site.

Reporters Without Borders

Posted in censorship, China, Europe, Freedom of Information, Germany, Human Rights, Internet, News, Politics, Press freedom, Special day, Technology, website, World | 2 Comments »

Citizen Lab uses forensics to fight online censors in China and other 70 countries

Posted by Author on November 2, 2009


By Robert Mahoney/Deputy Director, Committee to Protect Journalists, Nov. 2, 2009 –

A basement in the gray, Gothic heart of the University of Toronto is home to the CSI of cyberspace. “We are doing free expression forensics,” says Ronald Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab, based at the Munk Centre for International Studies. Deibert and his team of academics and students investigate in real time governments and companies that restrict what we see and hear on the Internet. They are also trying to help online journalists and bloggers slip the shackles of censorship and surveillance. Deibert is a co-founder of the OpenNet Initiative (ONI), a project of the Citizen Lab in collaboration with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. ONI tracks the blocking and filtering of the Internet around the globe.

“We are testing in 71 countries,” says Deibert, who shares his data with Berkman. “We are testing all the time. We are the technical hub of ONI.”

“We started out in 2002 with China,” said Jillian York, project coordinator for Berkman. “The work evolved, and then with Cuba we cracked it.” By 2006, ONI had expanded its dragnet for blocked or filtered content to more than 40 countries. However, as Citizen Lab and Berkman gained expertise and resources so did the censors they battled.

“We are now onto third-generation controls,” York said of Internet censorship. “The first generation was simple filtering, IP blocking in China, for example.” The second generation was surveillance, which ranged from placing spies or closed-circuit cameras in Internet cafés to installing tracking software on computers themselves. “The third generation controls combine all the above. We see it in China, Syria, and Burma. It’s a very broad approach,” York laments……. (more from CPJ)

Posted in censorship, China, Firewall, Freedom of Information, Human Rights, Internet, Media, News, Technology, World | Comments Off on Citizen Lab uses forensics to fight online censors in China and other 70 countries

China Officials Try New Press Restrictions, Then Back Off

Posted by Author on October 28, 2009


By Weiguo Gong & Matthew Robertson, Epoch Times Staff,  Oct 28, 2009 –

Propaganda officials in southern China were forced to limit the scope of an order requiring journalists to apply for a “special journalist license” before interviews after receiving a flood of complaints online.

The order, titled “Dongguan City Promotes Care and Support for Media; Builds Idea for Positive Environment for Public Opinion,” a summary of which was published in the Guangzhou Daily on Oct. 22, argued that officials from the city’s Propaganda Department were attempting to help journalists by giving them an official certificate so they could do their job unimpeded.

The directive was questioned by bloggers, who wondered why Dongguan City should need the measure, since journalist licenses are already regulated by the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), which works closely with the Central Propaganda Department in Beijing.

Some pointed out that in recent years, local regime officials have purposefully set up obstacles for media reporting for fear of having corruption, administrative failures, or popular discontent exposed.

Under the new order, bloggers argued, local officials could stall requests or arbitrarily reject applications. Organizations like the Foreign Correspondents Club of China have documented harassment of journalists in China, where provincial officials send plainclothes thugs to beat journalists or use police to pursue reporters, confiscating and destroying their photographs and video recordings.

The order contains several clauses near the end which outline the conditions of the license. It says that journalists who don’t “follow interview procedures” or who breach security cordons “will be pursued especially seriously according to the law.” It also said that those who don’t “report truthfully” may have their certification rescinded.

In response to the criticism, the Dongguan Propaganda Department on Oct. 25 published an update that the “special journalist license” will be used only for large-scale official conferences.

Before that date, on Oct. 23, officials set up a Web site with simple cartoons and slogans attempting to explain the issue.

The Chinese Communist Party’s control of media in China has been widely documented by scholars,  journalists, and NGOs; propaganda and control of public opinion in China’s current era is thought to be integral to maintaining one-party rule in the country.

The Epochtimes

Posted in censorship, China, Freedom of Information, Guangdong, Human Rights, Journalist, Media, News, People, Politics, SE China, World | Comments Off on China Officials Try New Press Restrictions, Then Back Off

More Tibetans arrested in China in connection with Internet activities

Posted by Author on October 22, 2009


Reporters Without Borders, 22 October 2009 –

Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of three young Tibetans from the village of Dara who have been held in Nagchu county since 1 October, when they were arrested in nearby Sogdzong county for allegedly sending information about Tibet to contacts abroad via the Internet.

The police have not allowed the three – identified as Gyaltsen, 25, Nymia Wangchuk, 24, and Yeshe Namkha, 25 – to have any contact with their families since their arrest.

“The Internet is monitored, censored and manipulated more in Tibet than in other Chinese provinces,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Despite the risks, Tibetan Internet users continue to transmit information, especially to the diaspora and human rights groups. It is deplorable that the Chinese police devote so much energy to identifying and arresting ordinary Internet users.”

The three young people allegedly used QQ, a Chinese instant messaging service, to send photos of the Dalai Lama and speeches by him. It appears that the Bureau of Public Security had been monitoring their online activities for some time. The population of Sogdzong country complain of police harassment, including frequent ID checks.

The monks in Sog Tsandan monastery, for example, were forced by the police to attend patriotic meetings with the authorities and were forbidden to observe their end-of-summer retreat (in which they stay within the monastery to avoid harming the insects that emerge at that time of the year).

Several bloggers and other Internet users have been arrested in Tibet in recent months. They include Pasang Norbu, arrested in Lhasa on 12 August for looking at online photos of the Tibetan flag and Dalai Lama, and Gonpo Tserang, a guide sentenced to three years in prison in June on charges of inciting separatism and “communicating outside the country” for sending emails and SMS messages about the March 2008 protests in Tibet.

Reporters Without Borders

Posted in China, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Internet, Law, News, People, Politics, Religion, Religious, Social, Speech, SW China, Technology, Tibet, Tibetan, World, Xizang | 1 Comment »

Eutelsat Hearing Postponed Due to Last Minute Submissions

Posted by Author on October 14, 2009


Press Release, NTDTV, Oct. 14, 2009-

On 13 October 2009, the Commerce Court in Paris was to hear the merits of a petition brought forth by New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) to determine whether to appoint an expert to investigate Eutelsat SA’s termination of NTDTV’s broadcast over China. However, Eutelsat legal counsel Jean-Michel Lepretre presented a new stack of documents to the court very late in the evening before the day of the hearing. In order to study and digest the newly produced documents, NTDTV legal counsel William Bourdon asked for and received a postponement to the hearing. The Commerce Court has rescheduled the hearing to 5 November 2009 instead.

Although the hearing date was set more than two months in advance, such an act is often employed as a stalling tactic, according to Joseph Breham, an associate of Mr. Bourdon. He expressed confidence in the strength of NTDTV’s case, and indicated that the additional documents should not pose any problems for him and he intended to use the allotted time to examine the newly produced documents and prepare a response.

Background

In June 2008 Eutelsat terminated NTDTV’s broadcast to China on its W5 satellite, ostensibly due to technical failures onboard the craft. Days later, Reporters Without Borders obtained evidence that Eutelsat intentionally shut down NTDTV’s broadcast to appease the Chinese communist regime, and that contrary to Eutelsat’s claims, W5 had sufficient capacity to resume NTDTV’s broadcast.

Known for beaming uncensored news into mainland Chinese homes, NTDTV has long been a thorn in the side of the Chinese regime. The interruption to NTDTV’s broadcast represented a further setback for information freedom in China.

Recognizing NTDTV’s importance to the Chinese people, the European Parliament passed a resolution in January 2009 calling on the European Commission and EU Member States to take the necessary action to help restore NTDTV’s broadcasts to China and to support access to uncensored information for millions of Chinese citizens.

According to the convention that established Eutelsat in 1982, Eutelsat is obligated to “insure the freedom of expression and of information” in providing cross border television service. Citing “opacity of [Eutelsat’s] behavior”, the lawsuit seeks to shed light on the facts surrounding W5’s malfunction, so a determination can be made on damages and interest in compensation of any prejudice suffered by NTDTV.

For the latest update on the progress of this legal action and its background, please contact Carrie Hung at 917-319-0219 or carrie.hung@ntdtv.com.

About New Tang Dynasty Television

Established in February 2002, New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) is a non-profit television broadcaster and the only independent Chinese-language television to broadcast into China. NTDTV is dedicated to providing objective, uncensored news to Chinese residents. As a vital news source, NTDTV reported on the SARS outbreak in China three weeks before Beijing admitted to its existence. NTDTV also reports on environmental and human rights issues in China, generating awareness among Chinese residents important issues their government withholds from them.

Posted in censorship, China, Europe, Freedom of Information, Human Rights, Law, Media, News, NTDTV, Politics, TV / film, World | Comments Off on Eutelsat Hearing Postponed Due to Last Minute Submissions

China’s Export of Censorship (2)

Posted by Author on October 12, 2009


by Christopher Walker and Sarah Cook, Far Eastern Economic Review, October 12, 2009-

<< Previous

More insidious has been an indirect form of economic intimidation, whereby publications, event organizers or governments engage in self-censorship on topics deemed sensitive to the mainland, a dynamic some have dubbed “pre-emptive kowtowing.” Given their small size, proximity and relationship to the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan are particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon.

This June, the Hong Kong edition of Esquire magazine, published by South China Media, pulled a feature story by journalist Daisy Chu on the Tiananmen Square massacre slated to run on the 20th anniversary. In 2008, a prominent legal journal in Hong Kong made a last-minute decision not to publish an article on Tibetan self-determination. A blackout on independent coverage of the Falun Gong is believed to be practiced among certain Hong Kong and Taiwanese outlets whose owners have close ties to Beijing or significant business interests on the mainland.

As China’s economic clout and role on the global stage grows, it will inevitably exert greater influence beyond its borders. However, the issue is not whether China—which features one the world’s least hospitable environments for free expression—will project influence but what shape this growing power will take. The CCP plans, for instance, to spend billions of dollars on expanding its overseas media operations in a potentially massive show of “soft power.” But whether this enormous investment will simply project the deeply illiberal values that characterize China’s domestic media scene to a wider playing field is a question advocates of free expression should seriously ponder.

This critical question, so far, does not provide an encouraging answer.

China’s attempts to insinuate itself into Taiwan’s media sector, and Beijing’s ongoing efforts to limit the vitality of Hong Kong’s media, are among the examples of this phenomenon in Asia. The CCP has recently demonstrated its willingness to suppress open expression in Germany and Australia. The United States is not immune to this pressure. The Dalai Lama will be waiting a bit longer for his meeting with President Obama.

The Chinese government’s position at the vanguard of efforts to monitor and filter Internet content, using its wealth and technical acumen to devise methods to limit the free and independent flow of information online, also has serious transnational implications for free expression. China effectively serves as an incubator for new media suppression; authoritarian governments around the world carefully watch China’s censorship techniques and learn from its innovations.

The community of democratic states must acknowledge the Chinese government’s growing media ambitions and efforts to censor beyond its borders. Acquiescence in this challenge will only embolden the Chinese authorities.

Christopher Walker is director of studies and Sarah Cook is an Asia researcher at Freedom House.

<< Previous

Original report

Posted in Asia, censorship, China, Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, Hong kong, Human Rights, Media, News, Politics, Press freedom, Speech, Taiwan, Trade, World | Tagged: , | Comments Off on China’s Export of Censorship (2)

China’s Export of Censorship (1)

Posted by Author on October 12, 2009


by Christopher Walker and Sarah Cook, Far Eastern Economic Review, October 12, 2009-

The Chinese government’s effort to prevent dissident authors from taking part in the prestigious Frankfurt Book Fair, an international showcase for freedom of expression, has offered Germany a close-up view of China’s intolerance of dissent.

In September, two Chinese writers, journalist Dai Qing and poet Bei Ling, had their invitations to the fair revoked by German event organizers after China’s organizing committee complained. The Chinese delegation threatened a boycott over invitations to the writers for a September symposium promoting the Frankfurt Book Fair, which begins on October 14. China is the “guest of honor” at this year’s fair. In the face of this pressure, the event’s organizers withdrew the invitations. The writers’ participation was ultimately enabled when the German PEN club of independent writers invited the two Chinese dissidents.

While Beijing’s coercive behavior caught many Germans off guard, it should not have come as a surprise; the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) censorship ambitions are neither new, nor limited to Germany. In fact, this action is just the latest example of an ongoing pattern of interference, cooptation and intimidation beyond China’s borders used to muzzle voices critical of the Chinese government.

Two days after the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair, a film festival in Taiwan’s second largest city, Kaohsiung, will begin. It, too, has come under pressure to censor. In this instance the issue is a planned screening of “The 10 Conditions of Love,” a documentary about exiled Uighur rights activist Rebiya Kadeer. Chinese authorities assert Kadeer has terrorist links, unsubstantiated claims not accepted by most Western countries or independent analysts. Despite pressure to shelve the film—linked to fears that the city’s growing industry servicing mainland tourists could be hurt—the Kaohsiung Film Archive and the organizing committee of the 2009 Kaohsiung Film Festival announced on September 27 that it would go ahead with the screening. A similar series of events unfolded at the Melbourne Film Festival this summer.

In September, Uighur activist Dolkun Isa, who holds German citizenship, was denied entry into South Korea, to take part in a conference on democracy. China is South Korea’s largest trading partner. Isa, who fled China in 1997 and obtained asylum in Germany, was held at the Seoul airport without explanation for two days after being denied entry to South Korea.

The Chinese authorities have developed an elaborate arsenal of censorship, including an extensive domestic apparatus of information control. Less appreciated and understood are the methods of interference and intimidation employed to muzzle critical voices abroad. Some of the modern authoritarian techniques the Chinese authorities use for this purpose beyond its borders are detailed in a study, “Undermining Democracy: 21st Century Authoritarians,” recently released by Freedom House, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia.

Economic coercion is a principal line of attack in the transnational suppression of issues deemed sensitive by China’s rulers. The coercion is applied directly and indirectly.

Instances of direct economic coercion and censorship typically occur when an event has already been planned or already begun. Pressure is then applied by Chinese government representatives on the organizers or local authorities to suppress certain activities or appearances deemed undesirable by the CCP. In such instances, explicit or implicit threats of boycotts, trade sanctions, or withdrawal of Chinese government funding have been used to force the hand of those in charge. The CCP’s Frankfurt Book Fair gambit fits this model, given the financial implications of the Chinese government’s $15 million investment in the event. (next >>)

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Sixty years of news media and censorship– China

Posted by Author on October 2, 2009


Reporters Without Borders, 1 October 2009 –

In an affirmation of its authority, the Chinese government is today celebrating the 60th anniversary of the creation of the People’s Republic of China with fireworks and military parades but there is also a need to evaluate the past 60 years from the Chinese media’s viewpoint and in the name of the Chinese people’s right to be informed.

Reporters Without Borders would like to participate in this anniversary in its own way, by highlighting some dates that shed light on the media’s evolution in China.

The past 60 years have been difficult for journalists as the Maoist regime wanted to turn the media into nothing more than propaganda tools. Journalists and bloggers nowadays are no longer locked in a totalitarian grip but the censorship has never stopped. The Communist Party continues to exercise direct control over the news agency Xinhua, newspapers such as People’s Daily, and the national broadcaster CCTV.

The Chinese media enjoyed a degree of freedom before the People’s Republic of China was proclaimed on 1 October 1949 but diversity of views and privately-owned media were swept away when Mao Zedong seized power. Although China’s journalists had been censored by political parties, above all the Kuomintang, and by Japanese occupiers, there had been a nascent press freedom that was crushed by the Communist Party.

Editorial freedom came to a complete end in 1949. Intellectuals, including journalists, lived in permanent fear of arbitrary repression orchestrated by the regime until Mao’s death in 1976. The toll in human lives was appalling. Many journalists were killed or “committed suicide” and for decades the public had to endure mind-numbing propaganda. Some journalists abandoned professional ethics and participated actively in the all-out promotion of the party’s interests.

The record has been more varied since China embarked on its economic reforms and, overall, the situation of journalists has improved. But the increase in freedom has not so much been bestowed by a generous regime as won by journalists who have risked being fired or jailed in the process.

The Internet has offered new vistas to journalists and bloggers since the end of the 1990s. On the one hand, this new technology is a revolutionary tool for putting pressure on national and local authorities but it has also become a formidable propaganda tool for the government…. (to be cont’d)

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China’s Online Censors Work Overtime

Posted by Author on September 30, 2009


By Bruce Einhorn, BusinessWeek, Sep. 30, 2009-

As China gears up to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on Oct. 1, the country’s security watchdogs are on alert for threats to the big celebration. The government is calling for “greater efforts to maintain public order and social stability,” the official Xinhua news agency reported on Sept. 28. In Beijing alone, 800,000 people have offered themselves as “safety volunteers,” Xinhua reports.

Part of the campaign to ensure a smooth anniversary includes an intensified effort to limit access to China’s Internet, say anti-censorship activists outside the country. “They have tried everything they can” to block software that helps people evade censorship, says Bill Xia, president of U.S.-based Dynamic Internet Technology, a company that has developed Freegate, software that enables users to circumvent censors by rerouting traffic through proxy servers. While there’s always a high level of censorship in China, says Xia, the campaign ahead of National Day this year is more comprehensive than usual. “This time they have really put a lot of resources to this,” he says.

Other censorship foes report similar problems. The Onion Router, or TOR, also uses proxy servers to help users gain access to restricted sites. Some half a million people rely on it daily, according to TOR Executive Director Andrew Lewman, who says China is one of the service’s top users. TOR, originally developed for the U.S. Navy, depends on volunteers to run its network and publish addresses to 2,000 “relays” that give people access to servers. “Since Sept. 25 we have seen a number of people saying that TOR has stopped working,” says Lewman. More than half of the relays were blocked.

Some Anti-Censorship Progress

The new campaign against services such as Freegate and TOR comes after critics of online censorship in China won a rare victory. On July 1 the government had planned to force all PC vendors to install or provide filtering software called Green Dam, which was meant to limit access to online pornography. But critics said it also restricted access to politically sensitive sites. After an outcry both abroad and at home, Beijing backed down and announced companies would not have to comply with the requirement.

Since then, though, the Chinese government has taken a hard line in the far western region of Xinjiang, where fighting between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese in July led to the deaths of 197 people and injuries to 1,700 others. The local government blamed Rebiya Kadeer, an exiled leader of the World Uighur Congress, for the unrest and said she used the Internet to communicate with “secessionists” in the vast region. After the rioting, the government began blocking the Internet in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, and connections are still down, according to the official China Daily newspaper.

On Sept. 29, China Daily reported on new regulations designed to control use of the Internet throughout Xinjiang. “Online activities compromising national security, damaging national and social interests, undermining ethnic unity, instigating ethnic succession, and harming social stability will be severely punished,” the paper reported.

“The Electronic Great Wall”

The renewed efforts to limit access to the Internet inside China, as well as recent attacks against foreign journalists, prompted Reporters Without Borders, the international group that advocates for press freedom, to criticize the Chinese government. “The Electronic Great Wall has never been as consolidated as it is now, on the eve of the 1 October anniversary,” the group said in a Sept. 29 statement.

That said, Lewman says TOR is staying ahead of the authorities. Although access is difficult, TOR “is [working] and has been,” he says. The project’s volunteers regularly change the Internet protocol (IP) addresses that people can use to gain access to TOR, he says. “It’s in constant churn,” Lewman says. “You can block it at one point in time, but by noon 20% of them have already changed IP addresses.”

Unlike other regimes, he adds, there are limits to how far the Chinese government will go to control the Internet. During the upheaval following the Iranian presidential election, for instance, “Iran wasn’t afraid to block secure Web sites across the board, which breaks e-commerce, access to Gmail, everything,” says Lewman. “I don’t think China is willing to do that.”

Einhorn is Asia regional editor in BusinessWeek‘s Hong Kong bureau.

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China’s losing fight with freedom

Posted by Author on September 23, 2009


by Mona Zhang, NYU News, Published September 22, 2009-

The Chinese government has been trying to play Big Brother to its 1.3 billion citizens ever since the creation of the internet. In 2006, the Golden Shield Project (aka The Great Firewall of China) was completed and came under scrutiny as the world turned its eyes to China for the 2008 Olympics. This year called for the implementation of the Green Dam, a project that was put on hold after worldwide criticism. The project originally decreed that all PCs and new software must include an internet filtering system, aimed at protecting the nation’s youth from pornographic sites.

In actuality, the Chinese government might is using the system as an Orwellian tool to monitor individual activity, and block access to information on politically sensitive issues, such as Falun Gong or the 1989 Tiananmen uprising. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that not only does the program block information the government deems “sensitive,” it has major security problems that put the user in the way of hackers and malicious software.

With the Green Dam project under fire and the Muslim Uighur uprisings also drawing international attention, the Chinese government — trying not to “lose face” over this issue — has decided to release the system as a voluntary addition.

But when will they realize that these measures don’t work? In our flourishing virtual world, China’s feeble attempts at information control only result in unwanted attention and so-called “netizen” uprisings. At the moment, China’s internet censorship system is sort of like that elusive cockroach you’ve seen lurking around the hallways of your dorm. It’s an annoyance that doesn’t inhibit you from going about your daily activities, but your dislike for it grows as you cautiously tip-toe to the basement to do your laundry……. (more from NYU News)

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China Boosts ‘Great Firewall’

Posted by Author on September 17, 2009


Radio Free Asia, 2009-09-16 –

HONG KONG— China has successfully undermined key software used by its netizens to climb over the “Great Firewall,” a sophisticated system of government-backed blocks and filters designed to limit what people can view online.

“Right now, basically, the network is not stable because of the blocking. It started probably Sept. 1,” said Bill Xia, CEO of Dynamic Internet Technology, which created Freegate to circumvent government blocking.

“Since last Monday, we saw that it got worse and people started to find it more difficult to use the Freegate software—it may have difficulty connecting to our network or after it gets connected then very soon they get disconnected,” he said in an interview.

“It is getting close to National Day, so probably the government is spending more effort in trying to clampdown control of the Internet, at least around this time,” he said. “They’re trying more and more to block our software.”

‘Great Firewall’

Chinese Internet users have been complaining since last week that it is getting harder to circumvent the Great Firewall, known online simply as “GFW.”

“I have been using Freegate for many years, but have never experienced anything like this, not even during last year’s Olympics,” said Sichuan-based online writer Ran Yunfei.

“[Freegate] used to be very fast, but in the last two days, it has become unstable,” he said.

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders Web site reported last week that most Freegate users in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Hebei, Sichuan, Shandong, and Helongjiang were unable to log in.

But Xia said his company is working on a newer version of Freegate, to be released next week.

“We have been working on a new release for awhile because of the situation, so we are accelerating the process. We are targeting releasing a new version in one or two weeks,” Xia said……. (more details from Radio free Asia)

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China backs down on Green Dam but concerns remain

Posted by Author on August 15, 2009


Reporters Without Borders, 14 August 2009 –

Reporters Without Borders is relieved by yesterday’s government announcement that installation of its “Green Dam-Youth Escort” Internet-filtering software will not be obligatory on individually-owned computers but is nonetheless concerned that installation is to go ahead on computers in schools and Internet cafés.

“We hail this decision, which is the result of a major international outcry involving both government officials and the Chinese-language blogosphere,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But the ministry of industry and information technology’s insistence on installing the software on computers in schools, Internet cafés and other public places continues to worry us. As Internet cafés are very popular in China, this could do online freedom of information a great deal of harm.”

At a news conference yesterday, industry and information technology minister Li Yizhong said Green Dam’s installation would be optional. It had been poorly presented and explained and had been misunderstood, he said, claiming that that there had never been any intention of making its installation on individually-owned computers obligatory.

The decision to let people choose whether or not to install Green Dam was hailed yesterday by the US government, which had played a key role in lobbying the Chinese authorities against its obligatory installation on computers.

At yesterday’s conference, organised by the State Council’s Information Bureau, Li nonetheless said installation would go head on computers in schools, Internet cafés and other public places in order to protect young people from pornography and other harmful content.

However, the authorities have not provided any details about of the kind of content that will be considered inappropriate. The limits of this content filtering need to be clearly defined in order to avoid excesses. While it is legitimate to want to regulate the Internet, it would be unacceptable if this software were to restrict online freedom.

China has more Internet users than any other country in the world – more than 300 million – but its censorship of the Internet is also one of the world’s strictest. It was ranked 167th out of 173 countries in the 2008 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

Reporters Without Borders

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Problems for China social websites

Posted by Author on July 23, 2009


p2pnet.net, July 23, 2009 –

p2pnet news view | P2P | Politics:– Two Chinese Web sites offering Twitter-like micro-blogging both went down, yesterday, supposedly for maintenance.

IndexOnCensorship has well-known blogger Wen Yunchaosaying having two sites close on the same day, “indicates pressure from authorities for them to shut down”.

The timing was probably related to the 10-year anniversary on July 22 of the banning of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, he says.

Sites that are inaccessible or aren’t working properly include Fanfou, Digu, Zuosa and Jiwai, Bloomberg News quotes Xiao Qiang, director of the Berkeley China Internet Project, as saying.

The sites work like Twitter, “allowing users to post information quickly before editors can review their submissions,” according to Qiang.

“Dr. Song Li, a very successful Chinese web-entrepreneur, seems to be pulling it off again,” said thenextweb.com (from whence came the pic) in April, going on:

“He recently launched Digu, a Chinese miniblogging service currently still in Beta that people in the West will soon unrightfully refer to as ‘the biggest Chinese Twitter’. Ok, admitted, Digu shares some major similarities with Twitter: it is a microblogging service and has a Twitterrish (or new Facebook startpage?) interface, but there is plenty more to it.

“So what makes this service so special compared to Twitter or the many Chinese Twitter copycats such as TaoTao, FanFou, Jiwai, Komoo (checkout their funky design!), Zuosa, etc etc? First of all Digu – which sounds like whisper in Chinese – focuses a lot more on both entertainment and mobile.”

Adds the story, “Song is the co-founder of MeMeStar, a Chinese mobile mobile value-added service provider  sold for $20.8 to Sina in 2003 and is founder/CEO of SinoFriends.com, a successful Chinese online dating service. Needless to say Dr. Song has enough cash to spend on his new venture so Digu is seeded very well.”

Meanwhile, the likely idea for the sites’ problems is to, “create some speed bumps for users of social networks, to slow down the spread of news and opinion contrary to the government,” Bloomberg News has Jonathan Zittrain, co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University in Cambridge, stating.

p2pnet.net

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More bricks in the wall: China’s Censorship

Posted by Author on July 13, 2009


Editorial, Japan Times, July 13, 2009-

Facing opposition from Chinese citizens and foreign governments, Beijing has postponed a plan to reinforce the “Great Firewall of China.” These efforts, ostensibly to protect against pornography, look more like a new campaign to crack down on dissent. One way to protest them is to demand that China respect its international trade obligations. While such a premise lacks the moral force of past appeals to human rights commitments, it may prove more effective.

The Beijing government has long sought to control citizens’ access to information. That challenge has become more difficult when any individual with a computer (or mobile phone) can access the Internet. Chinese companies have been developed to compete with foreign online search engines and network entities like Yahoo! and Google, both to promote national champions as well as to ensure that Beijing has more say over their policies and practices. The prospect of losing business — a potential market of hundreds of millions of consumers — helps bend foreign companies to the Chinese government’s will.

The temporarily shelved plan would have had filters built into Internet servers and search engines in China that block access to Web sites or terms that Beijing deems sensitive. Trying to get information about “Falun Gong,” for example, would have been fruitless. Web sites like YouTube are routinely cut off. Chinese Net users have even lost access to iTunes, Apple Computer’s popular music Web site, because of concerns over lyrics.

Such crude censorship is hard to justify, so the Chinese government has sought more acceptable rationales. In recent weeks Beijing has launched a new effort to control what users can see while surfing the Internet. In May, it ordered that all new computers sold in China after July 1 have the filtering software called “Green Dam Youth Escort.” It was intended to prevent children from accessing pornography or other harmful content.

On June 25 the Chinese Health Ministry announced that it would restrict access to medical research papers on sexual subjects as part of the same campaign. At the same time, Google has been forced to disable a function that lets it suggest search terms, again, in the name of fighting pornography……. (more details from Japan Times)

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China: All communications with Xinjiang cut for past six days

Posted by Author on July 11, 2009


Reporters Without Borders, 10 July 2009 –

Several Uyghur students currently in Paris told Reporters Without Borders today they have been unable to contact their relatives in Xinjiang since 5 July, either through the Internet or by telephone.

At the same time, the China Digital Times website had published a list of 118 keyword combinations such as “Xinjiang blood”, “Han and Uyghur cannot live under the same sky”, “Uyghur and Han, demonstration” and “conflict, Han and Uyghur” that produce no result in search engines because they have been blocked by the Chinese authorities. See http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2009/0….

For more information on the censorship of independent news and information about Xinjiang, see the Reporters Without Borders press release of 7 July……. (more details from Reporters Without Borders)

Posted in China, Freedom of Information, Human Rights, Internet, military, News, NW China, Politics, Social, Technology, website, World, Xinjiang | Comments Off on China: All communications with Xinjiang cut for past six days

Facebook Inaccessible in China After Violent Clashes in Urumqi

Posted by Author on July 10, 2009


By Tim Culpan, The Bloomberg, July 9, 2009 –

July 9 (Bloomberg)
— Facebook Inc.’s social-networking Web site was inaccessible in China as the government blocks information after violent clashes in one of its regions.

As of 1:36 p.m. Beijing time, there were at least 36 reports of Facebook.com being unavailable from China, according to Herdict.org, a project at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, which tracks Web outages. Local access to the YouTube.com video site of Google Inc. was also broken, and connections to Amazon.com Inc.’s online store were irregular.

China’s government, which maintains tight control over the Internet, media and information flow, severed access to e-mails and the Web this week in the western city of Urumqi in Xinjiang province amid ethnic clashes that left more than 150 people dead and 1,000 injured. Authorities blocked Google’s search engine last month amid criticism it spread pornography.

“The government wants to show it’s doing as much as it can to prevent links to information from overseas as well as from inside China,” Duncan Clark, chairman of BDA China, a Beijing- based technology consultancy, said by phone. “It won’t work.”

Facebook.com couldn’t be accessed from Beijing or Shanghai as of 11 a.m. local time, while connections were possible from Seattle and Brisbane, Australia, according to WebSitePulse.com. Yahoo! Inc.’s Yahoo.com Internet portal and Microsoft Corp.’s Hotmail.com e-mail service were reachable from all four locations, according to WebSitePulse.com.

“It does appear to be running slowly” in China, said Larry Yu, a spokesman for Palo Alto, California-based Facebook. “We’re looking into the matter, what the reason is for the service running slowly.”

‘Prisoner of State’

Amazon.com, the world’s largest online store, sells “Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang,” the banned memoirs of the former chief of the Chinese Communist Party, who was under 16 years of house arrest until his death in 2005. He secretly taped his account of the infighting among party officials before they ordered the military to crush pro-democracy demonstrations on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. Clicking on the book’s Web page from China blocks the whole site for at least 15 minutes, and it can be re-accessed once the Internet browser’s history is cleared.

This may mark the first time the government has totally suppressed access to Amazon.com, broadening previous restrictions on Web pages for individual books, Clark said. …… (More from Bloomberg)

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Editorial: The US congress can help fend off authoritarian censorship in Burma, Iran and China

Posted by Author on July 7, 2009


Editorials, The Washington Post, July 7, 2009 –

FROM TWITTERERS in Tehran to bloggers in Burma, citizens living under authoritarian regimes depend upon free access to the Internet for information, coordination and the ability to make themselves heard. That’s why oppressive governments devote so much effort to online censorship: They, too, recognize the power of information to promote freedom. But some independent groups are pushing back against their control.

The indelible images and powerful stories that have emerged from Iran in recent weeks have been made possible by the efforts of a few volunteer experts running a makeshift system of patchwork servers. The Global Internet Freedom Consortium, a small, non-governmental organization, provides access to almost 1 million users daily and, according to recent statistics, to more than 90 percent of anti-censorship traffic from China and Iran. Its software allows users to evade online censors by connecting to a remote server that switches IP addresses nearly once a second to avoid being traced. But increased demand for the Internet amid recent turmoil has been overloading the consortium’s servers just when access is most needed. For the peaceful online revolution to continue, congressional support is necessary.

Before the Senate Appropriations Committee is a bill that could provide access to 100 million distinct users every day. Dedicating $50 million in the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill to Internet freedom could allow millions who live in autocratic societies access to the Internet. Internet freedom has long been a stated congressional priority — the 2008 appropriations bill included a commitment to provide “anti-censorship tools and services for the advancement of information freedom in closed societies.” Now is the time for Congress to put its money behind its words.

For every dollar the United States spends to guarantee access, oppressive regimes must spend thousands to put up walls and barriers. Once enough there are enough holes in a firewall, it crumbles. The technology for this exists. What is needed is more capacity.

The Washington Post

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