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Friday, October 12, 2007

China Censorship Report

Reporters Without Borders, together with a local source from an internet company who wants to remain anonymous, published an in-depth report [PDF] on the workings of Chinese internet censorship. Some of the findings:

Various forms of communication have been established between the leading commercial websites and the supervisory bodies – phone, email, SMS text messages, MSN, QQ and RTX (Real Time eXchange) instant messaging, web platforms and a weeky meeting. The Beijing Internet Information Administrative Bureau uses these different means of communication to instruct sites to not publish an article, to not cover an event or issue, or to put a stop to certain comments. The employees of these privately-owned sites are expected to liaise with the bureau and respond to its orders as quickly as possible. (...)

[T]he employees of the 19 leading Beijing-based websites attend a meeting at the Internet Information Administrative Bureau every Friday morning from 9 to 11, at which all the subjects that most interested Internet users that week are evaluated and bureau members criticise some sites. Then the bureau members announce the subjects to be covered in the coming week, the articles to be written under their supervision, and the articles to be eliminated. (...)

The Beijing Information Office has introduced a new system of “licence points" for websites. As well as being fined, sites can have points withdrawn. If they loose all their points, they risk to get their licence withdrawn. But they have the possibility of recovering lost points and are encouraged to do so.

The report also mentions that the Publicy Department’s Bureau of Information and Public Opinion organizes a weekly meeting on the state of public opinion in China. To gather information for these meetings, 39 sites are “sounding out public opinion,” including Google partner Tianya, the report says. Also, as the report mentions, companies like Yahoo are invited to a yearly “online media trip to the place where communism was born” – with an encouragement to write about these excursions – as another form of opinion shaping. I don’t know if Yahoo employees ever accepted the invitation, but as you may know companies like Yahoo or Google agreed to self-censor their sites in China.

[Thanks A.!]


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