China Fortifies the ‘Great Firewall’

by Matt Klassen on December 31, 2012

With news last week of China cracking down on the country’s rampant trademark infringement there was a moment when it seemed the China of old was on the way out, replaced by an increasingly progressive communist regime. But while China may be working harder to appease its global trade partners, it seems little thought is still given to appeasing its citizens (and visitors), evidenced by the fact that the vaunted “Great Firewall of China” has yet again been fortified.

The Chinese government announced on Friday that it has issued a new set of Internet governance standards, whereby Internet users are now required by law to provide their real names to service providers, and ISPs are now required to delete forbidden posts and report such treasonous activity to the proper authorities.

But even with China tightening its control over the information disseminated to its citizens it continues to be a fool’s game, as information, like sand, will invariably continue to seep through the regime’s iron grip.

While China has long been the poster boy for censorship, it certainly isn’t alone in its tyrannical desire to control the Internet. Similar totalitarian regimes across the Middle East, most notably Iran, are working feverishly to control the flow of information across its borders, not to mention the increased governmental interference with RIM’s Blackberry security we saw sweep the globe this past year.

But the situation with China has always felt different to me, a nation whose sheer size has afforded it a great deal of influence (and thus responsibility) on the global stage. Since the end of the Cultural Revolution that wrought the People’s Republic of China, the government has had several opportunities to positively influence human and civil rights, but every time steps are made in that direction bureaucracy takes them all back.

With this latest round of changes it’s clear that China is looking to battle Internet anonymity, clearly a subversive component to such a regime. To that end the government will only allow users to adopt pseudonyms after they have provided their real names, further requiring service providers to confirm that the information provided it’s accurate. The changes will also require businesses to exercise more care in gathering and protecting their data.

While I maintain that such a battle remains a fool’s game, I will say that, broadly speaking, perhaps the efforts of the Chinese government should be lauded. There is an increased push here at home for such anonymity to be eliminated as well, helping combat the plague of online bullying, stalking, harassment and other such abusive online behaviours. Of course China’s motives seem a lot less benevolent when you take into consideration that this response was likely nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to a number of corrupt government officials recently being exposed on social networks and blogs.

That said, while the Western world is likely to give such news nothing more than a derisive side glance its clear that the Chinese government is desperately trying to get a reign on an increasingly freewheeling Internet, bringing some semblance of order to one of the few facets of the communist regime that is clearly chaotic.

Further, it’s clear that the government is at least cognizant of the potential backlash from its citizens, careful to spread the responsibilities of these new Internet policies over users and service providers alike, certainly hoping that by softening the blow the people will be more likely to follow the rules.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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