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If you were a Chinese blogger, would you tell the government your name?

7 June 2005

They used to say you can't censor the internet. Will someone please tell the Chinese government? They have announced that all China-based websites and blogs that are not officially registered with the government before 30 June will be shut down and/or fined. Reporters without Borders have sounded alarms.

Internet service providers in China who host the websites have been ordered to cooperate. Political bloggers are likely to move their sites to servers outside China, where they unfortunately are easier for the government to "filter" or make inaccessible to Chinese web users through the "Great Firewall".

On the Chinese ministry of information website (via the BBC), the reasoning goes:

"The internet has profited many people but it also has brought many problems, such as sex, violence and feudal superstitions and other harmful information that has seriously poisoned people's spirits..."

They will be using software that scans Chinese websites and alerts the authorities if it is not matched with a registration number. Citizenlab describes how it is likely to work.

It's best to be skeptical about the counts of how many bloggers have registered so far. Chinese officials say 75%, the Blog Herald reports only 10%. The excellent Global Voices has promised to stay on top of developments, and this post about the anniversary of Tianamen Square gives a sense of the kind of writing at stake.

It's been about 10 years since Privacy International published the report Big Brother Incorporated, about how corporations in the developed world assist repressive regimes through the international trade in surveillance technology. And it's still relevant. In May, openDemocracy's Becky Hogge warned about Google's business ties with China, and judging by this recent article on ZDNet about American tech-industry priorities in China, freedom of expression is as good as nonexistent on the agenda compared to software piracy and killing off alternatives to Windows.

Of course, it's harder to count human rights breaches in dollars and cents. What's it worth to you? Support the organisations that care. Including openDemocracy, of course.

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