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[Opinion] Internet Censorship

Posted February. 17, 2006 03:11,   


When you search for “Dalai Lama” on Google, you will get about 2,000 pictures. Some pictures show the Dalai Lama meeting U.S. President George Bush, and others show him delivering a speech in front of 40,000 Americans. But when you do a similar search on the Chinese version of Google (google.cn), you will see Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao in a suit saying, “The Dalai Lama must stop dividing the nation.”

China’s Internet user population is 110 million, the second largest after the U.S. The Chinese government encourages the use of the Internet for education and business. Yet, its government thoroughly censors the Internet as it does the press. Thousands of Chinese officials are in charge of limiting the access of the Chinese people to anti-government and obscene materials online.

The government claims that it limits the access to a few websites related to terrorism and pornography, but that is only an excuse made by a government mindful of criticism.

Online search engines and Internet corporations, including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Cisco Systems have succumbed to the censorship requests of the Chinese government in an effort not to lose the huge Chinese market.

Aside from China, nations in the Middle East, Cuba, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, and countries in Africa censor online activities to prevent their people from being freely exposed to information online. Germany censors access to Nazi websites. Yet, more Internet sites are teaching ways to get away with governmental censorship and providing free programs to that end. Bill Gates once said, “When the public has the desire to know something, they will eventually manage to escape from censorship.”

The Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations of the U.S. House Committee on International Relations recently summoned Internet executives to attend a hearing titled, “The Internet in China: A Tool for Freedom or Suppression?” Though the Chinese government is a relentless censor, it will not defeat an Internet armed with human creativity and various means to circumvent censorship. The Internet is basically a tool for freedom. Of course, Internet censorship is a luxury for North Koreans, who cannot afford computers and do not have the freedom to use the Internet.

Hwang Ho-taik, Editorial Writer, hthwang@donga.com