Internet censorship is the regulation and restriction of access to certain kinds of data, controlling Internet aspects like IP address, domain regulation and limited access to certain websites. The Chinese government is ready to use all the resources at its disposal to monitor and closely control Internet use in the country. The Chinese government should not censor the Internet in China because this is limiting the citizens' rights to access information, their freedom of speech and expression and it also leads to a gross violation of human rights.
The government imposed law and regulations to ensure that citizens in China do not access information which they deemed threatening to the nation's security and the government's political interests. As the Chinese Internet and wireless communication sectors continue to grow, more and more international companies will keep facing pressure from the Chinese government to supply equipment used for censorship and surveillance, hand over user information and actively censor user content (Human Rights Watch, 2006). Violation of the rules and regulation concerning the Internet are punishable by very heavy fines or imprisonment. The government of China does this just to safeguard its political interest and easily manipulate the people. People are often arrested for reasons such as communicating with foreign groups abroad, signing petitions on the Internet or calling for reforms and an end to corruption.
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The government enforces the censorship through service providers like Google, state-owned companies and organizations, as well as local service providers. Companies are usually held liable for bad use of the Internet by their clients or staff. There is a policy made to ensure that all companies operating in China practice self-censorship (Park, 2012). The government blocks certain websites such as social media websites and also international media, for instance, the New York Times. This kind of censorship is limiting access to information, which is very crucial to citizens. Information is power, people ought to stay informed on current trends and upcoming issues. This amounts to curtailing media freedom, which has been exemplified by arrest of journalists and human rights activists in the country. It denies the people the right to know not only what is happening in their country but also in the world.
Internet censorship is also a limiting factor to the acquisition of knowledge that is important both in academics and in life. Some of the information that is restricted by the Great Firewall of China includes search engine searches of certain keywords, like the Tibetan independence movement, Taiwan independence and Tuidang movement among others. All the websites and blogs that are blocked by the government are dedicated to freedom of speech and democracy.
The government actively filters the information posted in the social media and digital news. Some journalists and citizens are arrested on the grounds of cyber impropriety. In fact, China has the greatest number of arrests of journalists and Internet dissidents. This is limiting and depriving to a very great extent for the people of China to use their right to access information, and also their freedom of expression.
The government authorities not only block website content but also monitor Internet activities of individuals. The number of Internet police officers is estimated to be more than 5000. Monitoring of individual activities and their access to the Internet is a violation of the individual's right for privacy. The right for privacy is a fundamental human right and is the right to be let alone (Glenn, 2003). Every person has the right for privacy which should be respected by all governments and people.
The government is further violating the rights of the Chinese people by trampling on their freedom. Fines and arrests are becoming optional punishment for people who express or access undesirable material through the different platforms on the Internet as this is viewed as a genesis to social instability (Wortzel, 2010). Numerous Chinese people are under house arrest and others are in prisons because of the Internet censorship system of the Chinese government.
Internet censorship suppresses democracy, transparency and good governance. By totally controlling the access to and sharing of information, the government of China facilitates an autocratic system of governance that violently suppresses any forms of criticism or opposition. Situations that could raise eye blows among the citizens or even the international community are either downplayed or not given media coverage at all. Though China has the second largest and the fastest growing economy in the world, poor governance and oppression of citizens can bring the country into destruction. The way that the Chinese government is trying to solve issues by preventing social unrest is not healthy at all. People value their freedom more than anything else and can do anything to get their freedom.
On the other hand, the move of the Chinese government to censor the Internet in the country is justifiable. The government has the right to control and govern the Internet according to its own rules and laws within the borders. China is a country with the largest population in the world and it is not very easy to govern many people. The government, therefore, has the right to ensure that there is no material on the Internet that is a threat to national security or one that could subvert the power of the government or undermine national security or honour. Fully granting the freedom of speech and expression in such a country is a recipe for disaster. It could be misused to cause civil unrest in the country or bring the government down just like it happened in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. A revolution propagated through the social media can be a nightmare. All that the Chinese government is doing on the Interest is the security of the people of China.
The Internet censorship system is also very instrumental in safeguarding the Chinese culture against being eroded by the western culture as seen in other countries. The Chinese people highly regard their culture and moral values. If materials that could threaten the Chinese culture and moral fabric are allowed, it would be as good as welcoming vices into China. For instance, if the pornographic material was allowed, it would encourage immorality and prostitution in the country. This is also the reason why China does not allow other religions in their country in order to protect their culture, which is founded on Confucianism. The culture of the Chinese people is their symbol of unity and national cohesion.
The Internet censorship system might seem to work well for China but this cannot continue for a long time. The government should stop the censorship as it is greatly infringing in the fundamental human rights of the Chinese people, such as the right for privacy, the freedom of speech and expression and the right for information and knowledge. The Chinese government should instead pave way for democracy to avoid possibilities of a revolution via the Internet. People would not want to subvert a democratic government through the social media. The Chinese government should also allow critics as it contributes to good governance.
The Chinese government should seek alternative ways of safeguarding their culture but not through denying people access to information. They can invest in instilling morals of their citizens and also be on the forefront in embracing and appreciating the Chinese culture. In one way or another, the Chinese people will access the information anyway and they might abandon their culture if they do not value it in the first place. Moreover, it is important that the government should end the challenges it is facing in juggling whether to keep the Internet fully open for commercial purposes or to maintain its control for socio-political stability (Liu, 2011).
- Glenn, R. A. (2003). The right to privacy: Rights and liberties under the law. California: ABC-CLIO, Inc.
- Human Rights Watch. (2006). Race to the bottom: Corporate complicity in Chinese Internet censorship.
- Liu, F. (2011). Urban youth in China: Modernity, the Internet and the self. New York, NY: Routledge.
- Park, J.J. (2012). Embedded and multimedia computing technology and service: EMC 2012. New York, NY: Springer.
- Wortzel, L. (2010). China's approach to cyber operations: Implications for the United States. New York, NY: Diane publishing.