In a conscious society, what we consume is under constant question. The internet has turned into a place where freedom of expression can be determined worthy or not. This determination is ultimately decided by the government; which can choose how much power they have over their citizens, and the material they choose to display. How did the freedom of internet use turn into a regulated sphere of censorship and laws?
Taking it too far? China’s control over their citizens.
Online censorship laws in China focus largely on the protection of their ruling Communist Party. They restrict any content that questions or possibly poses a threat to the government. Any examination of political, religious, or cultural information regarding the party is under constant surveillance. This is applicable to free speech, and state and foreign media. This includes print form and online. The extensive censoring of the Internet often goes unnoticed by Chinese citizens. They are unaware that the government is explicitly obstructing access to certain websites. The influence of the authorities is made invisible, one way is by identifying restrictions as technical issues. Lu Wei (commonly referred to as ‘China’s Internet Czar’), previously the head of the General Office of the Central Leading Group for Internet Security and Informatization, confidently expressed:
“This path is the choice of history, and the choice of the people, and we walk the path ever more firmly and full of confidence”1
Is this choice of the people the same community that denies their own freedom of speech? It would be easy to have confidence in one’s own power.
Where the idea of one’s individual freedom is not compatible with a communist ideology, the opinions of the Chinese community are suppressed. The curious voices that wish to share a perspective through blogging websites are quickly removed by the government; this is when citizens become aware of the political control. Popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Gmail, are all inaccessible. However, these foreign forms of social media are often replaced by China’s own heavily censored versions. These efforts are all apart of the Golden Shield Project , more specifically, the Great Firewall of China. The laws under the project mainly involve foreign websites, apps, social media, emails, instant messaging, and other online resources deemed inappropriate or offensive by authorities. These are described as ranging from depictions of violence and pornography, to more politically sensitive matters. These issues are ones that encourage democracy or portray the Communist Party in a negative or undermining manner. Even terms like: democracy, revolt, or student strike are allegedly blocked.
It is agreed among Chinese Internet communities that when there is confusion on the Internet, it can harm social stability. Although, a study conducted by Pew Internet in collaboration with American Life Project examined that 85% of Chinese citizens surveyed think that the government should be responsible for managing the Internet. It’s in a population’s interest to feel safe under cyber-security. Yet, when protection is dependant upon micromanagement, those affected start to feel suffocated by supremacy. Though it is evident that the attitudes of their communist system bleeds into Internet regulations, perhaps these conditions are just expected. It can be difficult to determine if Internet users would prefer a change in censorship laws. The ideologies of the regime are debatable; yet individual freedom for any community has long been a desirable circumstance.
Even so, when the eye of Big Brother is watching, you have their full attention.
“The Internet, is as much a tool for control, surveillance, and commercial considerations as it is for empowerment.” – Hu Xijin 2
The wonder down under.
While China is primarily focused on the protection of their own government, Australia is more concerned with the safety and well-being of their citizens. This difference between national security in regards to Internet censorship displays an emphasised comparison between two economically developed. Australia’s censorship with Internet regulation is more lenient in terms of consumer’s freedom. This is due to Australia being a democratic government. The values that constitute a democracy are described as having:
- freedom of election and being elected;
- freedom of assembly and political participation;
- freedom of speech, expression and religious belief;
- rule of law; and
- other basic human rights. “
In contrast, communism denies these ideologies.
This goes hand-in-hand with the tolerance and legal allowance of certain censorships. Australia however, is a Commonwealth, therefore, the responsibility for censorship laws are divided between each state and federal government. The Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) is responsible for the administration of the internet censorship regime. The Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) have the power to restrict material that is on the internet. For example, if an Australian site was displaying content that would be classified as R18+ or X18+, and the site did not have an adult content verification system, the material could be refused classification.
Jillian C.York, December 24 2016, Censorship on Social Media: 2016 in Review
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/12/censorship-social-media-2016-review Date Accessed: 8/11/17
Isabel Thottam, September 29 2016, Censorship is Killing the Spirit of Social Media
https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/09/censorship-is-killing-the-spirit-of-social-media.html Date Accessed: 8/11/17
TECH, 26 September 2016, Social media and censorship in China: how is it different to the West? http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/41398423/social-media-and-censorship-in-china-how-is-it-different-to-the-west Date Accessed: 8/11/17
Kim Jackson, Online only issued 19 October 2001, Censorship and Classification in Australia https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Publications_Archive/archive/censorshipebrief Date Accessed: 8/11/17
Beina Xu and Eleanor Albert, February 17 2017, Media Censorship in China https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/media-censorship-china Date Accessed: 8/11/17
Simon Denyer, May 23 2016, China’s scary lesson to the world: Censoring the Internet works https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/chinas-scary-lesson-to-the-world-censoring-the-internet-works/2016/05/23/413afe78-fff3-11e5-8bb1-f124a43f84dc_story.html Date Accessed: 8/11/17
Jane Perlez and Paul Mozur, June 29 2016, Lu Wei, China’s Internet Czar, Will Step Down From Post https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/30/business/international/china-internet-lu-wei.html Date Accessed: 8/11/17
Samuel Wade, May 25 2016, China’s “New Normal” Internet Control: Does it Work?
https://chinadigitaltimes.net/2016/05/chinas-new-normal-internet-control-work/ Date Accessed: 8/11/17 (1)
Mihai Andrei, June 1 2016, ‘Tank Man’: The iconic image that China doesn’t want you to see
https://www.zmescience.com/other/great-pics/tank-man-tiananmen-square/ Date Accessed: 8/11/17
Randy James, March 18 2009, Chinese Internet Censorship
http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1885961,00.html Date Accessed: 8/11/17
Robert H. Jackson, 31 March 2006, Internet Censorship Laws in Australia
https://www.efa.org.au/Issues/Censor/cens1.html Date Accessed: 8/11/17