Published on junio 3rd, 2009 | by admin0
So Much for the Internet’s Democratizing Effect
A short geo-technical quiz to get the ball rolling: Is Chinese blockage of news sites and Twitter on the 20th anniversary of the events at Tiananmen Square a sign of:
- A) Cynical machinations of a despotic regime intent on control, denial, and misinformation?
- B) A chance for well-meaning Occidentals and political opportunists to demonstrate naïveté and polarize the situation further?
- C) Neither a hindrance nor a help to the average Chinese Web surfer who’s well versed in proxies and other firewall circumvention techniques?
- D) All of the above?
Let’s clear the decks on one issue: This solemn occasion is a disturbing reminder to all who enjoy freedom of the price paid by those who sought to do the same. A couple blogs on Internet Evolution today point this out — one from IBM’s Todd Watson, another by Matthew Ingram.
Watson describes from first-hand experience the blankness that greets questions about Tiananmen Square in China — officially, it’s a non-issue. Never happened. Ingram describes the widening of controls and restrictions in the last several days to keep official mentions out of the mainstream media and off Websites.
This is bad. This is wrong. This is how you get branded an enemy of freedom by the international community. And this is also what China has done for a really long time, as the world got to see in time-delayed, high-def glory during last summer’s Olympic Games.
Nine months later, we can see it was just wishful thinking that that sort of exposure might have permanently cracked open the doors of free thinking and open exchange of ideas, images, and opinions. The Chinese government is simply reverting to type — this time, though, there’s no IOC or international broadcasters and journalists to placate.
None of this is to excuse blocking Twitter, Google, or big chunks of the Chinese blogosphere. But what it does say is that this is all perfectly consistent with the Chinese modus operandi. And it was as foreseeable as the inevitable indignant responses from around the world. The Chinese authorities appear pretty impervious to shame or embarrassment. And, as I’ve asked here before, what superpower doesn’t have a lot to answer for where absolute freedom’s concerned?
A little taste of capitalism hasn’t softened up the Chinese stance much where human rights are concerned. Hosting an international sporting event didn’t offer much leverage on the freedom front, and despite the plentiful ways to circumvent Chinese firewalls, the Internet hasn’t ushered in a new era of freedom for 1.3 billion people. Twittered protests and online hand-wringing seem a bit gratuitous, but they may be all we have in this impasse that isn’t likely to end anytime soon.
— Terry Sweeney, Editor in Chief, Internet Evolution