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Another reason for not surrendering the internet

Posted by Helen Sunday, November 27, 2005

As this blog has pointed out before, the idea of the internet being run “by the world” is not only preposterous (how precisely is the world going to run it as most of the world has no say in the way individual countries and societies are run?) but downright dangerous.

This is not just because handing anything over to the UN (responsible most recently for the oil-for-food scam) is a lunatic idea but because the proposal emanates from and is enthusiastically supported by some of the world’s worst tyrants (and the European Union with Britain as part of it).

While the idea was proposed by Iran, whose rulers have a serious problem with the country’s bloggers, the communist rulers of China were not far behind. They, too, have a problem.

The number of Chinese bloggers is estimated to be between one and two million. Some blog in Chinese, some in English and many bring news from other websites onto their blogs.

Now, one can argue that even 2 million bloggers is a small drop in a very large ocean, as far as China is concerned (though one must not forget that there are many bloggers outside mainland China, who can be read by Chinese internet surfers). But in a country where, despite some naïve glorification by Western liberals who do not look too far, control of political opinion is still paramount, even such a relatively small number is a problem.

According to an article in Thursday’s International Herald Tribune

“Under President Hu Jintao, the government has waged an energetic campaign against freedom of expression - prohibiting the promotion of public intellectuals by the news media and imposing restrictions on Web sites, like requirements to register domain names.

The government has also pressured search engine companies to bar sensitive topics, particularly those dealing with democracy and human rights, and has heavily censored online bulletin board discussions at universities and elsewhere.

So far, the Chinese authorities have mostly relied on Internet service providers to police the Web logs. Commentary that is too provocative or too directly critical of the government is often blocked by the provider, and sometimes the sites are swamped by opposing comments - believed by many to be from official censors - that are more favorable to the government.

Blogs are sometimes shut down altogether, temporarily or permanently. But the authorities do not yet seem to have an answer to the proliferation of public opinion in this form.”
With the growth of broadband usage blogging has really taken off and those that are closed down, often reappear under a different name (that is if the blogger in question is not arrested, having been denounced by Yahoo or some other western provider).

Not all the blogs are directly political. Many are personal or humorously subversive. In a system where the personal is political these, too, become a potential danger.

Clearly the Chinese government and its Ministry of Interior that keeps a police force dedicated to the control and censure of the internet are afraid that, even with the help of Western firms, desperate for contracts, they may lose the battle against the blogosphere. How much easier would it be if they could exert some control on who could and who could not sign up on the inernet, as they would be able to do, should the “world”, a.k.a. some international committee set up by the UN be put in charge.

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