Building the new Great Wall

By Kyle Francis

Home to both legitimate and illegitimate news sources, gambling rings, auction houses and some of the most horrifying things ever conceived by the human race, the internet has become humanity’s intellectual flop-house. Sharing cyberspace with eBay and are thousands of online diaries, called ‘web logs’ or ‘blogs.’ Commonly, blogs are the jerk-rags of amateur pundits, failed comedians and 14-year-old ‘life is pain’ goth-kids, though some exist with the legitimate purpose of opening their readers’ eyes to new kinds of music, alternative media or even mail order T-shirts.

Within the last week, China has begun a crackdown on the information access and activities of China’s 100 million internet users, namely calling for all news sources, official and unofficial, to be registered with the Chinese Ministry of Information. This comes down hardest on China’s avid blogging/message-boarding community, as many blogs and webboards comment on current Chinese affairs, leading the government to deem them “unhealthy news sources.” While the ministry has stated publicly that blogs will be allowed to continue running as long as they are registered through all the usual channels, one anonymous China-based blogger was told ‘not to bother’ because ‘there was no chance of an independent blog getting permission to publish.’ The Great Firewall has been erected.

While political blogs do exist, there are many that are enriching in other ways. In Canada, citizens are able to access blogs exposing them to everything from re-writes of the old testament to fantastic stories in the life of a paramedic. One blog goes into great detail explaining the utility of bamboosa, a fabric purportedly softer than silk. Unfortunately, the ministry’s broadsword tactic doesn’t allow citizens access to these. If the system was modified to allow access to some sites, but not those that would threaten social solidarity, a compromise–albeit an imperfect one–could be reached.

This encroachment upon blog culture affects students more than other Chinese citizens, if only because students will be more prone to reading alternative media and political criticism. It’s understandable that the Chinese government would want to limit political dissent in a people so prone to violent rebellion but telling citizens they can no longer keep their online journals is just another human rights kill-sticker. Historically, stomping on human rights hasn’t been a great way to quell revolution.

Chinese citizens haven’t reacted to The Great Firewall adversely yet, but the move has made the world media more than a little weary. While limiting internet access isn’t going to make anyone run over students with a tank, it’s just another step in the wrong direction–something China could do without when discussing human rights.

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