Nowadays, we people are so used to scrolling through our feeds right after we wake up. We utilize social media on a daily basis in so many ways that we don’t even realize. We not only use it to stay connected with others but also stay up to date with the world by reading current news and affairs. Let’s not take Internet resources for granted. Can you imagine popular websites being blocked by the government in your region? Your online presence being carefully monitored? Unfortunately it’s a reality for most of the people who live in China.
Great Firewall of China (GFW), called The Golden Shield Project in China, is a censorship and surveillance project which intends to block information and data which is considered unfavourable by the government.
In Ted Talk, it was mentioned that China has over 500 million Internet users. This is the largest population of Internet users in the entire world, which is one of the reason why Chinese government feels the need to censor and control their citizens. For several years Chinese government had been doing this to prevent Chinese people from behaving in ways that will negatively affect their government. (Anti, 2012)
Fang Binxing is a Chinese Communist Party member and he’s called the “Father of China’s Great Firewall”. Can you believe, in April 2016, he was forced to use a Virtual private network (VPN) to bypass his own creation (Campbell, 2016), the same tool which is secretly installed by millions of Chinese to escape the censorship. Binxing then had an equal experience as of others, dealing with slow and unstable connection to the outside world.
Recently, it was announced that using an unregistered VPN after March 2018 would be considered a crime. (Genter, 2017)
Despites the politics behind it, Western Brands are having hard time accessing into China because of the GFW, many of the sites which are used in the West are unavailable in the country. These include most popular services such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Google and YouTube as well as many Western Publishers.
However, Michael Anti said in the Ted Talk, that the Chinese are having their own league as their internet is “flourishing”. Following are China’s social media platforms which has replaced the popular western platforms.
This article “China Profile, timeline” shows that Cyber Attacks on social media plays large role in contributing censorship of the Chinese Internet. (BBC News, 2017) Behaviour are monitored by the Chinese government on social media to stop people from using the internet to fight against others. Let’s take any incident as an example, such as the Arab Spring/Revolution, which occurred in December 2010 a protest against the government in the Middle East. It was spread through social media; it means that internet had the power to this uprising. It wouldn’t have been possible if internet was completely censored.
There are number of things which contributes the creation of the Great Firewall of China such as these riots. Social media is helpful but it’s a dangerous place as well. The Chinese Government tries to prevent such incidents from happening and the uprisings caused from participating on sites. The government sees social media as a threat to their role in the society, so by censoring and controlling people’s internet usage, China maintains its separation from the world.
“We try to persuade the authorities that it will hurt the whole country’s development in the future, and the economy eventually.” (Mao, 2008)
Do you think the Chinese government is taking the right action? While they are playing the safe game, is China going to have a big loss in the long run?
Khan Sultana Nazish
Anti, M. (2012). Behind the Great Firewall of China. [online] Ted.com. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/michael_anti_behind_the_great_firewall_of_china/transcript?language=en [Accessed 28 Oct. 2017].
Baker, G. (2017). China is clamping down on foreign firms’ internet use and there’s a worry it might jeopardize trade secrets. [online] CNBC. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/20/china-clamping-down-on-use-of-vpns-to-evade-great-firewall.html [Accessed 28 Oct. 2017].
Campbell, C. (2016). Architect of China’s Great Firewall Blocked by Firewall. [online] Time. Available at: http://time.com/4283248/china-great-firewall-fang-binxing-censorship/ [Accessed 28 Oct. 2017].
Genter, J. (2017). China’s Great Firewall to Block All VPNs By February 1, 2018. [online] The Points Guy. Available at: https://thepointsguy.com/2017/07/china-vpn-crackdown-feb-2018/ [Accessed 28 Oct. 2017].
Mao, I. (2008). ‘China’s first blogger’ Isaac Mao on the impact blogging has had on his country. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2008/aug/05/blogging.digitalmedia [Accessed 28 Oct. 2017].
News, B. (2017). China Tells Carriers to Block Access to Personal VPNs by February. [online] Bloomberg.com. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-10/china-is-said-to-order-carriers-to-bar-personal-vpns-by-february [Accessed 28 Oct. 2017].