China: Government Willingness to Expand Control Over Internet Worries Netizens

Famous info-activist Wen Yunchao reveals [zh] that the Chinese Communist Party Propaganda Department has issued an instruction to major media outlets to highlight two oficially crafted articles that justify Internet censorship. Both articles are published today, December 20, 2012.

The first piece is entitled: “Internet is a disaster area for the leaking of private data” (個人信息洩露,網絡是重災區). It is published by the People's Daily, an official outlet of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. The second piece is “Punish internet crime, strengthen the protection and management of information in the Internet” (懲治網絡違法犯罪,依法加強網絡信息保護和管理).

The two articles are an elaboration of two previous commentaries on Internet governance published on December 18 and 19 by the same People's Daily, namely “The Internet is not outside the Law” [translated by China Media Project](網絡不是法外之地)and “Regulation of the Internet according to Law is an international practice” (互聯網:依法監管是各國慣例).

Wen, an experienced observer of Chinese state-controlled media,  believes this move announces a new wave of crackdown on online dissent, similar to the “anti-vulgarity campaign” in 2009.

The Internet is not outside the Law” highlights what it describes as the “adverse effects of the internet,” saying that it is a platform for “spreading scams, cyber attacks and rumors.”

The other piece, “Regulation of the Internet according to Law is an international practice“, quotes examples from other countries and uses them to rationalize online surveillance and censorship practices such as real name registration systems (Sweden), counter-cybercrime and terrorism (the U.S.A.), censorship of racist and nazi speeches (Germany), Internet black list systems and criminalization of defamation against the Monarch (Thailand), legislation against online sedition and blasphemy (Singapore).

The article “Internet is a disaster area for the leakage of private data” is a collection of recycled news about the stealing of personal identity card information in real life settings and the use of the data for fraudulent online shopping and online trading of personal data. It is worth noticing that this is not directly related to the issue of online privacy protection.

The second piece, “Punish internet crime, strengthen the protection and management of information in the Internet“, also published today, repeats what has been said in “The Internet is not outside the Law” two days ago, also justifying online surveillance and censorship.

Concerned Chinese netizens have reacted strongly against the two articles and pointed out that the “customary practices from overseas,” as the official papers put it, would become “tyranny” in China given the lack of democratic processes in policy deliberation and among people elected to government.

Conspiracy theories concerning the authorities’ plan to strengthen control over the Internet seem to have been confirmed by these latest official instructions directed to the media.



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