Thursday, April 14, 2005

Internet filtering in China 2004-2005

Today the Open Net Initiative released its report on internet filtering in China 2004-2005 [PDF].
Here's the abstract:
The OpenNet Initiative tested China's Internet filtering of web content, blog postings, and e-mail correspondences. Our testing found efforts to prevent access to a wide range of sensitive materials, from pornography to religious material to political dissent. Unlike the filtering systems in many other countries, China’s filtering regime appears to be carried out at various control points and also to be changing over time. China operates the most extensive, technologically sophisticated, and broad-reaching system of Internet filtering in the world. China’s intricate technical filtering regime is buttressed by an equally complex series of laws and regulations that control the access to and publication of material online. However, ONI found that most major American media sites, such as CNN, MSNBC, and ABC, are generally available in China (though the BBC remains blocked). Moreover, most sites we tested in our global list’s human rights and anonymizer categories are accessible as well.
Here's a Washington Post article on the study, which is critized here for its uncritical reporting on the sole technology focus:
The problem is that the focus is purely technological and that is part of the problem I have with this kind of research. This kind of research only makes sense with observation made on the ground. Strategies to go around the often-failing filtering technology is so common place that controlling the internet is an illusion. But since this illusion matches the classic way of framing the China-story by the Western media, top-down, evil and powerful, papers like the Washington Post just repeat the assumptions of the researchers without asking any critical questions.

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