With more than 30 million registered bloggers by the end of June 2006 and more than 100 million Chinese Internet users visiting blogs regularly, government officials have become increasingly worried about the spreading of ‘unhealthy and defamatory information’. The state broadcast authorities also imposed new regulations on performing artists and Internet users to ensure the promotion of only a ‘healthy socialist culture.’
Have no fear. They have been joined in their governance efforts by more than ten major Chinese blog service providers who agreed to sign the ‘self-discipline code for blog services’ drawn up by the Internet Society of China (ISC). Together with Jingjing and Chacha (two avatars from the Shenzhen policy network) and 30,000 state security personnel in 700 cities, they are monitoring websites, chat rooms and private e-mail messages to ensure law and order in China. Soon, the Beijing police will start patrolling the Web using animated beat officers that pop up on a user’s browser and walk, bike or drive across the screen warning them to stay away from illegal Internet content.
If that wasn’t enough, website blocking and filtering (graciously provided by Western companies) coupled with assistance from citizens (via online reporting centers) have helped establish a powerful propaganda presence online.
All-in-all, the Party still seems to possess enormous resources for social control, in particular in preventing online public opinion leading to collective action in real space. Beware though. Barbarians are at the gate. Every day an underground economy anonymous proxy server addresses comes alive, connecting to servers made available by volunteers around the globe. Several organizations (Peacefire, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Picidae) offer circumventing solutions which range from software to ‘adoption campaigns’’ by making the hosting of Chinese blogs a distributed and collaborative process. In addition, Chinese bloggers are taking bold steps too:
P.S.: Last week, a Chinese couple tried to name baby “@”…