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Chinese censorship icon Jingjing.  (Source:

Jingjing and Chacha pop up when debates become heated, gently reminding users to "advance harmony."  (Source: Wired/Committee to Protect Journalists)
Surge in traffic from earthquake creates a short-lived gap in Chinese censor coverage

Freedom groups everywhere breathed a sigh of relief when, earlier this week, Chinese censors were reported to be buckling under the weight of a country eager to talk about its devastating 7.9 earthquake. Now, it appears, those groups may have been incorrect: China’s censors never went anywhere, and the country’s “Golden Shield” project appears to be back to normal.

Previous reporting on the topic revealed that Chinese news sources were “surprisingly frank” with their reporting, revealing an uncommon level of honesty for a government that, characteristically, heavily regulates the flow of negative information. Chinese bloggers were able to communicate freely in all but the most extreme of circumstances, and Chinese message boards were littered with a variety of thoughts on the earthquake, both good and bad.

While many were hoping that the censors’ visibly relaxed controls would be permanent, the Chinese government quickly rebounded to the old status quo as activity died down. Even worse; it appears that the government propaganda machine was in effect all along.

United States-based Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia program coordinator, Robert Dietz, noted that journalists “rushed to the scene,” and described a “general feeling that the government had lifted the restrictions on reporters.”

Instead, said Dietz, “the central propaganda department never stopped handing down directives, never stopped telling people how much to report.”

On the public front, Chinese netizens are gently reminded to “self-regulate” by the country’s cartoon censorship icons, Jingjing and Chacha. One example, provided to Wired’s Threat Level by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the line-drawn duo orders users to “advance harmony,” by popping up at the bottom of the user’s screen if they posted a comment considered inflammatory.

However small and short-lived it may have been, the gap in Chinese censorship coverage reveals an interesting gap in the regime’s armor: like most everything else, the “Golden Shield” project is not invincible. Chinese users have long known that they can circumvent government blacklists with proxy servers – something the government actively cracks down on, creating a game of cat and mouse – but now, apparently, they can flat-out overwhelm it too.

With the country reportedly encouraging up to 500 million of its rural citizens to migrate to urban population centers – putting each of those migrants all the closer to computers and cellphones – can internet censors keep up?

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By 325hhee on 5/27/2008 12:03:47 PM , Rating: 2
While everybody is harping on China and it's web censorship, the Freeworld isn't any better, they just rename it and call it government cover ups. Let's just take the Roswell incident, did a UFO crash? Are there really aliens? Did the govt cover it up? How is that any different than censorship, it's the same thing, you take some information and only release to the public what you want them to hear.

Though personally, I don't believe there were any aliens in Roswell, but that's not the topic of discussion. On to more recent events. The war in Iraq, were there WMDs? They were never found, or where they? Was the govt trying to cover something up? If so what was the agenda? Better yet, when our soldiers were being beheaded, should the news show the beheading? Absolutely not, it's barbaric, we do not need to see soldier's heads lopped off.

Censorship isn't the best thing in the world, but some times you just need to use judgement on what should be seen and what shouldn't. Would you let a 10 yr old watch porno? Would you want to use profanity around kids? Morally the answer should be no, but I've seen the people out there and they are no holds bar on their kids, which is why the youth in today's time are horrendous, disrespectful, lack manners, lack discipline.

I may not agree with China's internet policy, but to govern billions, some extreme measures needs to be taken sometimes. Comparing to the US with only 300 mil, this country needs a shakedown within, racism still exists, bigotry, sexism, ignorance is the biggest thing of all. No country is perfect, and no country ever will be. Democracy failed in Russia, it doesn't work for everybody. Democracy doesn't even work in the US, in some aspects, hence recession.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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