Censorship or surveillance: which keywords are flagged in China?

What do censorship and surveillance programmes look for? What can this tell us about internet usage in China?

Can we contrast with the perceived surveillance state of the West? What are the implications for a company in the Chinese market?

Unsurprisingly, there are lots of questions still to be answered about the state of the internet in China.

First Monday has this month published a very interesting paper, presenting an analysis of data from a year and a half tracking the censorship and surveillance keyword lists of two instant messaging (IM) programs used in China.

I thought it would be useful to sum up what Crandall et al. found, so you don’t have to read the whole thing. Although this study looks at IM clients, there are certainly findings that can be extrapolated across public services, such as Baidu and Sina Weibo.

Twitter introduces country-specific censorship

Twitter has introduced country-specific censorship of tweets.

Walking a fine line in terms of freedom of expression, the company says it will introduce the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country – while keeping it available to the rest world.

Could Twitter be censored?

The recent media obsession over superinjunctions could lead to the unthinkable: censorship of web content here in the UK.

Google’s China trainwreck continues

When Google first threatened to exit China over concerns about the government’s censorship stance and involvement in a hacking incident, I called Google’s move a “calculated business decision” while at the same time questioning just how calculated it really was.

And when Google decided to run a Chinese language search engine from Hong Kong, I noted that Google was clearly “to have its cake and eat it too“, albeit with little chance of success.

Digital Economy Bill passes: will the UK get its own ‘Great Firewall’?

China’s internet filter, dubbed the ‘Great Firewall’, is frequently the subject of discussion, and a source of scorn directed at the nation’s Communist government.

But when it comes to defending itself against Great Firewall censorship criticisms, China might soon suggest that its critics look at another country: the UK. That’s because the controversial Digital Economy Bill passed in the House of Commons last night, 189 to 47. And it gives the British government the wonderful ability to filter sites off the internet too.

Google tries to have its cake and eat it too in China

It’s official: Google is leaving China. Well sort of.

The search giant announced yesterday that its Chinese search engine,
Google.cn, will no longer be operated from within the country. Instead,
it will run from servers based in Hong Kong, enabling China to drop its
censorship of search results, something it had obviously tried
unsuccessfully to receive permission from the Chinese government to do.

Steve Ballmer talks about China

Recently, Google created an international firestorm by threatening to pull out of China. Google cited a hacking attack originating from China as the impetus for its threat but the real rationale behind the move was quite clear: Google wants to play by different rules in what will be the most important consumer market in the world.

Google won praise in some circles for taking on the Chinese government and making a statement about censorship and human rights. Certainly, it does not look likely that Google will get what it truly wants, and while the outcome of Google’s strategy (if there is one) is yet to be seen, I’m not the only one who thinks Google has likely made a big mistake by handling the situation as it did.

Is Google’s China threat really a business maneuver?

Reports broke earlier in the week that Google might exit the Chinese market.

Yesterday, Google turned the matter into a political drama with its official
explanation. In a post entitled “A new approach to Chinaon the Official Google Blog, Google’s Chief Legal Officer David
Drummond details why his company is
considering leaving: it stumbled onto and was the victim of a “highly
sophisticated and targeted attack
” that resulted in the theft of
intellectual property.