China’s Censorship 2.0

How do Chinese Internet companies censor user-generated content? In a recent report (China’s Censorship 2.0: How companies censor bloggers), Rebecca McKinnnon shows that Chinese censorship is far from uniform. The researchers looked at 15 blog service providers (BSP) and showed that:

  1. Censorship levels across the BSPS varied drastically; the most vigilant company censored “only” 56% of the blog posts
  2. A large part of senstive political comments manage to survive in the Chinese blogosphere
  3. Censorship methods vary greatly from company vary greatly (most of them use primarily one method), which means that BSP have a certain room to manoeuver

The reports hints at a number of reasons for these variations in censorship practices:

- Companies are registered in different locations and surveillance may vary accordingly
- Some companies are more succesful than others and hence may come under more intense scrutiny
- Shareholders and investors may play a role via their political relationships
- BSP editors may, due to their educational and professional background, understand their role in different manners

While the myth of the Great Firewall and Internet police hiding behind each and every Chinese Netizen remains alive, the report – while limited in scope and extent – offers a welcome qualification of blog censorship in China.