Chinese censorship distorts reality

Thank you Freedom House.

The human rights organization posted a study by China Media Bulletin that showed how pervasive the censorship in China really is. (And along the way, showed how much Yahoo bends to the will of the state censors.)

The study, Cyberdisappearance in Action, used a very simple method to see what got censored.

To investigate this phenomenon in greater detail, the editors selected a sample of eight prominent activists, lawyers, and journalists, many of whom have used the internet as part of their activism. Freedom House staff then conducted searches for their names on Google.hk (a Hong Kong–based site that is largely free of Chinese Communist Party censorship) and compared the results to those produced by Baidu.com, the dominant Chinese search engine; Yahoo.cn, the China-based version of the U.S. internet portal; and the search function of China’s popular Sina Weibo microblogging service—all three of which are subject to Communist Party restrictions. Although Yahoo.cn represents less than 1 percent of China’s search-engine market, it was included because its performance demonstrates the censorship requirements imposed on foreign internet companies seeking to operate in China.

The aim of the test was to simulate the experience of an average Chinese user who has heard the activists’ names and wants to learn more about them.

The results were not surprising. The Hong Kong sites provided plenty of information about the dissidents. The mainland China sites blocked access.

The findings reveal not just clear evidence of significant restrictions, but also the nuance with which the Chinese censorship apparatus imposes those restrictions. Ultimately, they provide a window into the distorted version of reality available to most Chinese internet users, as well as the Communist Party’s extensive efforts to isolate activists who cross an ever-shifting red line and limit their access to large audiences.

And speaking of just how distorted the view can be in a censored society, take a look at this first-hand account published in the Fairfax City PatchAnne’s Story: I Grew to Realize Falun Gong, Tiananmen Massacres Were Real (Many thanks to Patch editor Whitney Rhodes for bringing this story to my attention.)

Think about how unprepared a person will be for the “real world” if he/she ONLY hears news and commentary from one side.

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Filed under Censorship, China, Press Freedom

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