Xiaoou Cheng (carlyarthur) 翻译。非常感谢译者授权。
1.China’s Internet censorship has essential difference with censorship by other countries with following characteristics:
There are lots of regulations to prevent Internet users to publish information, including keyword filtering, require domain name registries and website owners to file records with government. The regulations place strict barrier for individuals and small organizations to set up BBS, blogs, social networking system and increase start-up cost for small websites since they have to maintain a team to self-censor the website to make sure there is no “inappropriate content” on the website.
There is no clear standard saying what kind of information is “inappropriate” or “illegal”. When ISP and government departments delete web content or even close the website, they seldom mentions which regulation is violated. Users and website owners have to guess what is wrong themselves.
Typically, the person who is doing self-censorship for the website or ISP will be over-censoring to make the website safe (in order not to being closed by higher level department). The consequence is that many appropriate content are also deleted by this even stricter censorship.
•Lack of transparency
China’s Internet censorship is a black box. Internet users have no idea who made the decision to delete/hide the content. Typically, they will be told it is according to “some departments” but fail to know which “departments”. There is no government’s announcement admitting the existence of the “Great Firewall” which blocks many websites externally. When Internet users have encountered a blocked website, they have no idea whom to ask to unblock the website.
2.Unnecessary obstruction to study, academic research and communication.
The current censorship discourages people to set up blog, BBS, social networking sites in various fields to foster communication and collaboration. Free expressions with keywords could never be published in public space. People have to use alias to express their opinions. A lot of external good digital resources are blocked by Great Firewall. Chinese Internet users have to spend a lot of time and efforts to know how to access blocked websites. Transnational communication and education are largely affected.
3China’s technology innovation is hindered and startup environment for entrepreneurship is damaged
Innovation and leading technology are no longer the key issues in successful start ups. The companies are facing:
•High cost of maintaining self-censorship team
•Strict requirements for capital scale
•Various approval systems
•Government department who controls censorship is never to be found
•Unclear censorship and unclear policies
•Potential risk to be required to close and stop operation at any time
4.Negative impact on China’s investment environment
Google China issue is hurting China brand a lot on international scale. The influence is being expanded with involvement of IT companies and media. Two international domain registrars are leaving China market and made testimony before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
Among 20 most-visited worldwide websites, 5 of them are now being blocked in China, including Youtube, Facebook and Twitter. Websites like Wikipedia had been blocked in the past for a long time and connection to Wikipedia is still interfered.
It is justifiable for us to ask, why are these websites blocked in mainland China, while there is no such restriction in most other countries? Is there anything wrong with our law or censorship? How will the high-tech companies look at China with such prospect?
5.The censorship hinders the public to participate in public affairs.
Due to high-effectiveness, low-cost and interaction enabled, Internet should play an important role in supervising the government. However, a lot of information about not-for-profit law suits, negative information regarding general public, etc have being deleted or blocked. Some activists have even been sent to prison.
To conclude, black box censorship policy is actually destroying China’s freedom of expression, civil society progress, legal procedure, innovation economics and the government municipal diplomacy.
In the long run, we are opposed to any form of censorship. However, at present, we support the necessary censorship on Internet content and communication. But censorship should be modified in the following ways:
•Clear law enforcement. Related regulation and censorship cannot violate China’s constitution law and other laws. Obscure censorship standard will cause over-censorship or even make it impossible to self-censor.
•No pre-censorship, freedom of expression, which is supported by China’s constitution law cannot be violated.
•The operations of censorship must be transparent. Procedure, instructions must be required by specific department, not so-called “some departments”.
•Remedy channels for individuals or companies to appeal controversial censorship decisions.
•Public’s interest in public affairs and related free expressions should not be hindered. No unnecessary interruption for the public in studying, academic research, communication and commercial operations.