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Self-Censorship in China. Eric Schabel & Fahad Pervaiz. The Issue.

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self censorship in china

Self-Censorship in China

Eric Schabel & Fahad Pervaiz

the issue
The Issue
  • In order to reach a wider audience by joining in on the massive Chinese market, western companies such Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft have opted to relax moral standards by voluntarily cooperating with the Chinese government’s strict censorship laws—many of which violate the rights to freedom of speech and information that are valued by cultures across the globe.
the issue3
The Issue
  • Human rights groups, free speech activists, hackers, company executives, and many Chinese citizens have all spoken out against this self-censorship, especially after the launch of
  • The companies participating in self-censorship have defended their positions—sometimes claiming a moral imperative, such as utilitarianism, in order to operate in the country despite the denial of basic freedoms with which they cooperate.
the mechanisms of censorship
The Mechanisms of Censorship
  • The Chinese government has direct control over the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) that provide internet access within the country, meaning material that it deems “sensitive” will be blocked before internet users ever have a chance to discover it.
    • Blocked sites include western media outlets and human rights organizations, among many others
  • The ISPs also filter email services in much the same way spam is filtered, allowing them to block unwanted subjects from being discussed over the internet.
  • Beyond the technology, however, it is the culture of fear that works most effectively to keep the web self-censoring—people can and have gone to prison for breaking China’s censorship laws.
the problem with self censorship
The Problem with Self-Censorship
  • The Chinese government’s strict censorship laws can be easily be viewed as a denial of basic human rights, and rightfully so, but the companies that have entered the Chinese market at the expense of these rights are also to blame.
  • By cooperating with Beijing, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft (among others) are contributing to the oppression of the freedoms of speech and information.
the problem with self censorship6
The Problem with Self-Censorship
  • At least 50 people, including journalists, are currently imprisoned in China for writing about “controversial” subjects on the internet.
  • One unfortunate example of this is

Shi Tao, a poet who was sentenced

to ten years in prison for sending an

email to a pro-democracy


  • The information used to prosecute

Tao was supplied by Yahoo.

the problem with self censorship7
The Problem with Self-Censorship
  • By foregoing respect for human rights, the western companies that have access to the Chinese market are actively participating with the Chinese government’s culture of human rights oppression and fear, even if it is indirectly.
  • This disrespect for humanity is the very definition of unethical.
researching tiananmen square
Researching Tiananmen Square
the other side
The Other Side

Information for all

the other side10
The Other Side
  • China has the largest population of any country in the world—over 1.3 billion people.
  • Some estimates claim that 150 to 200 million Chinese citizens currently use the internet regularly—a number that rivals or surpasses U.S. statistics. By 2010, this number will be at least 250 million.
Even using an outdated chart, it is easy to see that China’s presence on the net is significant and growing:
the other side12
The Other Side
  • Why should these people be denied access to powerful tools like Google?
  • Yahoo and MSN have a simple response for critics, maintaining that their respective companies will always respect the laws of the countries in which they work.
  • Google has gone through great lengths to express that it is their view that having Google services available to Chinese internet users, even in censored form, is best for the greater good of the Chinese people.
  • By having a presence in China,

Google can better help to affect

change in Government policy

towards censorship.

outside of china
Outside of China
  • Self-censorship is not limited to China—in France, Italy, Austria, and Germany, sites such as Google, eBay, and Amazon are required to block white supremacist and nazi-related items.
  • Though few would argue in support of such material, it is still an example of self-censorship and the denial of freedom of information within the western world.
  • Is this form of self-censorship more


what is your take
What is Your Take?
  • In France, one cannot buy Nazi paraphernalia from any merchant. eBay cooperates with this law by blocking all products and users linked to Nazism from their sites.
    • Is this form of censorship more acceptable than Beijing’s policy of blocking “sensitive” topics? Keep in mind that buying Nazi products is completely legal here in the States.
your take pt 2
Your Take, Pt. 2
  • Is self-censorship in China a subject that western society should see through a lens of cultural relativism? While very few people actually agree with what the Chinese government is doing, is it necessary to fault businesses for attempting to exist in the ever-expanding Chinese market?