China’s failing attempt at absolute control of expression: Net as voice and subversive tool

Just read a very interesting piece of news from Nashua Telegraph (accessed Oct.26,05) which explores China’s recent clamp down on media outlets. It seems the net is continuing to prove a strong catalyst in helping bring about civil disobedience and promote revolution…
A few quotes, but I would read it in its’ entirety if you are interested:

Microsoft Corp. took some heat from human-rights activists for agreeing to incorporate software in its Chinese blog service to automatically reject “democracy,? “human rights? and other words deemed taboo by the government.

“Before the Net came around, Xinhua (China’s official news agency) was pretty much where you got the news,? said Jonathan Zittrain, an Internet legal scholar affiliated with Oxford and Harvard universities. “This does seem to me an acknowledgment that news can be made by people, and they are struggling with that.?

Complete enforcement is virtually impossible in a country with 100 million Internet users – second only to the United States – but the rules will let the government “cherry pick? the most troubling cases, said Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
They also could foster self-censorship, he said.
Nonetheless, he said, resourceful Internet users have typically managed to bypass controls in the past, forcing authorities to regularly “restate the rules in a way to get more compliance from people and close potential loopholes.?

Hopefully this subversion will continue to flourish.
The article specifically mentions blogs and ‘self reporting’ as one medium the government is trying to crack down on. Another good point for social software…it enables voices to be heard in areas where they are usually kept silent.
bring on the revolution…

redux…(added at 108 after driving home and perking on this idea…)
our students need to see stuff like this. Social software is so much more than blogging about your cat….it has tremendous potential as a communicative tool that can be used to promote change. I remember reading Neil Stevenson’s Diamond Age in university for a course on Cyberpunk literature (yes, it was a real course…), and reading his fictional accounts of protests that were organised via netlink and cell phone…thinking, man that is far out….but the FUTURE IS NOW! It is happening as we speak, not just in fictional literature…people are jacking into the net and using it as a catalyst for revolution…this idea is not new, but the immediacy of its’ effects are there.


3 thoughts on “China’s failing attempt at absolute control of expression: Net as voice and subversive tool

  1. Subversive expression and shameless honesty are most of the time what characterize blogging. But what happens when you blog critically from inside a bureauocracy, and that bureauocracy suddenly notices you?

    Does it reflect and think about the feedback or does it react by shutting you down, blocking your blog from all inside computers, by harrassing other members of the institution – grilling them to see if they had been involved with the blog, threatening them with being let go if they read or talk about it?

    The answer is the second half. That bureacracy wasn’t a company, but a university. The blogger, a teacher. The students threatened, and intimidated. A true story.

  2. Aaron,
    Thanks for that input.
    I have read similar accounts, such as an article that appeared in the New York Sun entitled Blogging Prof Fails To Heed His Own Advice By JACOB GERSHMAN – Staff Reporter of the Sun
    October 11, 2005 (accessed Oct.29,05).
    I am not sure of the reasons behind each case. ie. I do not know if either blog author transgressed the boundaries in their blogs, but it is a scary situation, nonetheless.
    It also is a strong reminder that blogs are public in nature, and should be undertaken with this in mind.

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