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Chinese censorship icon Jingjing.  (Source: China.org.cn)

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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RE: Mixed feeling about this.
By peteryang84 on 5/27/2008 10:12:42 PM , Rating: 2
I am a Chinese.
Open Government Information (or whatever the name is) law was enacted on 1st May so limiting information IS now against the law.
Your observation about the chinese government is utterly untrue at best and your blindness to the suffering of ordinary chinese people caused by abuse of power is disheartening, because I myself am a victim. My father had a piece of land in the outskirt of Beijing which has been confiscated by local party chief and sold to a developer for profit, and the local court would NOT even accept the lawsuit!
"The Chinese people like their government and their government work for the people, but the world outside simply cannot understand it, because they have a distorted, westernized view of what freedom means. "
that deserves a big STFU from me, perhaps you are one zealous fenqing troll with senseless xenophobia who never read news except from xinhua or sina and who have never stepped outside of your dirty apartment room.


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