The Inner Workings of Censorship in China

 Posted by on 18 September 2013 at 10:00 am  China, Free Speech
Sep 182013

On tonight’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I’ll interview Robert Garmong on censorship in China. Earlier this week, Paul sent me this fascinating article on how Chinese censorship works: Academics Launch Fake Social Network to Get an Inside Look at Chinese Censorship. Here’s the first few paragraphs:

Nine years after Mark Zuckerberg quit Harvard to build Facebook, one of the university’s political science professors, Gary King, decided this year it was time to launch his own social media site. But King didn’t set up his Chinese social network to make money; instead, he wanted to get an insider’s view of Chinese censorship, which relies on Internet providers censoring their own sites in line with government guidelines. King won’t disclose his site’s URL, to protect people involved with his project.

Previous studies of Chinese censorship have mostly involved monitoring Chinese social sites to see which updates censors remove (see “Social Media Censorship Offers Clues to China’s Plans”). Some have relied on rare interviews with insiders willing to talk about their role in censorship. By contracting with a major Chinese provider of Web software to help run his site, King could instead inspect the available censorship tools firsthand. He could also ask the company’s representatives whatever he wanted about how those tools should be used. “When we had questions, we just called customer service,” says King. “They were being paid to help us.”

Along with some parallel experiments on established social sites, King’s dabble in Internet entrepreneurialism has shown that Chinese censorship relies more heavily than was known on automatic filtering that holds posts back for human review before they appear online. The researchers also uncovered evidence that China’s vast censorship system is underpinned by a surprisingly vibrant, capitalistic market where companies compete to offer better censorship technology and services.

Go read the whole thing. Most interestly, China is eager to use “markets” to enforce its censorship. That underscores a point that Robert Garmong will make in tonight’s interview, namely that China is a fascist country, not a communist one.

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