"How Technology Is Making Censorship Irrelevant." Maybe.

Posted: 05 Aug 2010

Wired Epicenter, 1 August 2010, Peter Kirwan, "Today, there are only two countries in the world where censorship-induced paralysis exists on anything like a comparable scale: Burma and North Korea. Everywhere else, the terms of trade between free speech and censorship have improved since the Cold War. ... The experience of Iran suggests that the results can be significant. The Berkmann Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University suggests that 35,000 regularly-updated blogs are written in Arabic worldwide. Yet a separate Berkmann study suggests that as many as 70,000 active blogs are written in Farsi." There are blogs, and there is professional journalism. If the latter is being blocked, how many people in the affected countries can and will use proxy sites, anti-censorship software, or other workarounds? Will the people who can overcome censorship cut and paste real news into their blogs, for distribution within the unblocked web? All of this is difficult to assess and measure.

Foreign Policy, 4 August 2010, Brian Fung: "Only 0.1 percent of China's population actually listens to VOA's radio and TV shows, according to an oversight report (pdf) issued yesterday by the U.S. State Department. Meanwhile, the Chinese government actively jams VOA's transmissions by playing competing material on all its frequencies and blocks Chinese Internet users from accessing VOA's Chinese Web site. It's a coordinated strategy that should sound familiar to anyone who's lived in China or read about the mainland regime's penchant for censorship. But VOA has its own tricks, too. Among them? A never-ending e-mail campaign that tells eight million Chinese a day to use proxy servers to circumvent the Great Firewall. ... The service also has a highly developed mobile strategy. In 2008, VOA convinced a major (unnamed) cell phone company to install four language programs on all the 6.5 million devices the company hoped to sell that year." -- China presumably employs common anti-spamming techniques to discourage the VOA e-mails. How many people actually receive the e-mails and, if they do, open them? The language programs are a foot in the door, but the content is not news.

Tibetan Review, 5 August 2010: "All internet cafes across Tibet have been ordered to finish installing by the end of Aug’10 a state-of-the-art surveillance system which would not only restrict contents that could be viewed by identified surfers but also monitor their internet activities. 'All the Internet cafes must now install it,' Radio Free Asia online Aug 3 quoted Chen Jianying, head of the customer service department of the industry group Internet Cafes Online, as saying."

Wall Street Journal, 4 August 2010, Spencer E. Ante and Phred Dvorak: "Research In Motion Ltd. co-CEO Michael Lazaridis lashed out at governments seeking to ban his company's BlackBerry phones, saying they risk undermining the growth of electronic commerce by demanding access to secure communications and transactions. 'This is about the Internet,' Mr. Lazaridis said. 'Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off.' RIM is being pressured by authorities in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, India and other countries to provide greater access to the encrypted information sent by its devices."

Copyright 2006–2017 Kim Andrew Elliott.