How China Controls the Internet

How China Controls the Internet

A big thanks to Dashlane for making this exploration
possible. Keep your online accounts and passwords secure
with and get ten percent off your first year of Premium. You’re in china and you want to circumvent
the internet firewall. As you browse the web from site to site, you
constantly encounter websites the government doesn’t want you to see: YouTube, blocked. Twitter, blocked. Google, blocked. Wikipedia, blocked. Facebook, blocked. The government doesn’t want its citizens
using these sites. If they did, democracy would be just around
the corner. A quick google search for ‘Tank Man’ at
Tiananmen Square would reveal the oppression of the regime; thousands would be in the streets
protesting the government to demand their human rights. But for now, the population of China is trapped
behind an impenetrable firewall of internet censorship and spying. And like with the physical wall of china in
days of old, the great firewall of china is almost impossible to get around. But wait. There’s already a commenter who’s posted
below, ‘I’m watching this on YouTube in China lol XD’. And as it turns out, my portrayal of internet
use in China -prevalent in Western media – is kind of wrong. To access YouTube, Twitter, Facebook- any
blocked site in China, one need only pay a few dollars a month for a VPN, a Virtual Private
Network, which can hide your IP address and location, and, done. Government censors evaded. Read about any banned topic. Follow me on Twitter @williamcfox and send
me Chinese government-banned words to your heart’s content. Please don’t do that. So why do we all have this image in our minds
of China’s internet as censored and controlled by some Big Brother type figure just waiting
to throw you in prison for googling ‘democracy’? What is the Great Firewall of China if you
can just hop it like a ‘great chinese fence’? The answer leads us to a place perhaps more
insidious. How do you control the internet without giving
the impression to the average citizen that you’re doing so? The Tiananmen Square protests weren’t just
a political awakening for the student protesters; it was an awakening for the Communist Party
of China, which since the death of Chairman Mao had been implementing changes into Chinese
society some saw as opening a pandora’s box of civil unrest. During Mao’s Cultural Revolution of the
1960’s, he and his allies within the Communist Party possesed near full control of the media. The existing Propaganda Department was shut
down and replaced with something more sympathetic to Mao’s policies (1,37). Newspaper, radio, and bulletin boards were
used to broadcast the messages of the party, mobilizing thousands to wave Mao’s book
of quotations and reeducate so-called ‘reactionary elements’ of the party (2,138). Even fine arts like opera and film were meant
to reinforce the presence of the state in citizen’s private lives (1,38). But after Mao’s death in 1976, new Chinese
leadership began a process of reforms, ‘opening up’ China without getting rid of the Communist
Party (2,150). De-Maoization, as it was called, included
a slow move towards a market economy, some private ownership of farms, and critical to
our story, limited commercialization of the media (3,113). As a means of legitimizing central party control,
media investigations of local governments were allowed. The 80’s saw a reformed Central Propaganda
Department, which oversaw a freer exchange of ideas in society (1,40). But there was disagreement within the party
between those who thought economic reforms went too far and wanted homogenous public
opinion, and those who wanted the economy slowly liberalized, and some free expression
allowed. The only thing these two corners of the party
could agree on was that loud outbursts of dissent needed to be put down (4). And that is exactly what happened when student
protests in Tiananmen Square in April of 1989 spread to other Chinese cities. The world was watching when the protests were
violently suppressed. For hardliners inside the party, it was evidence
that the government had been too soft, that the laxness on speech over the years since
Mao’s death was damaging their cause (4). A suppression of the media followed. But it must be said this suppression never
reached anywhere near the level as during the Cultural Revolution, and focused a lot
of energy on opinion influencers- an attempt to stop community action by stopping the people
who organize it (3,117). Like a tea kettle, the government learned
to maintain control it needed to find some form of a middle ground between unforgiving
censorship of all political dissent, and complete openness, lest society boil over. This would prove a valuable lesson when revolutionary
technology would arrive just a few years later. In the early 90’s, economic growth remained
the top priority of the Chinese Communist Party. And so it was logical when the internet came
to China in 1994- that this driver of the economic future would be embraced by the government
and spread across the country. 15 years later, in 2009, over a quarter of
Chinese citizens used the internet. Today, it’s over 800 million people, close
to 60% of the country (6). That’s more than double the entire US population. But the world wide web came to China with
strings attached. The central party immediately issued regulations
on the new technology. Such regulation included the ominous and expansive
detail that the internet couldn’t be used to harm the “security and interests of the
state,” (5,81). And so, between 1994 and now, a massive state
apparatus for control of the internet emerged. The original operation for controlling the
internet was through the Ministry of Public Security and was called the ‘Golden Shield
Project’, but it’s better known today as ‘The Great Firewall of China’(7). The Party primarily controls the internet
through site blocking, topic filtering, rearranging search results, mass surveillance of web traffic,
and self-censorship imposed on private companies. First and foremost, the Chinese government
simply blocks websites. We’ve already gone through some of them:
Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, Wikipedia. Part of the reason is that these sites won’t
self-censor content. Well, Google might be caving on that, but
that’s a topic for another time. Another reason for blocking sites is because
for each of the examples I mentioned, a domestic Chinese copycat site is available- Baidu for
search, Weibo for friends, Taobao for shopping, or Youku for video. And as domestic sites, each of these alternatives
will better serve the government’s interest and the Chinese Economy at-large. For the second method of control, the Party
filters words and topics of conversation. For the average Chinese citizen scrolling
through their feed on Weibo, equivalent to Twitter, posts they make or comments they
leave may be automatically filtered for review. Discussing the June 4th events at Tiananmen
or notable activists associated with them will likely be filtered. Discussing the American government-funded
media organization Voice of America, filtered (8). After constitutional changes allowing Xi Jinping
to stay in office without term limits, words and phrases like “Emperor”, “Control”,
“1984”, “Animal Farm”, and “Brave New World” were banned. And yes, any comparisons between Xi and Winnie
the Pooh were banned too (9;10). The actual leg work for reviewing filtered
posts is done by millions of online censors- at least 2 million, according to official
sources (11). Some of these are government workers, but
a lot of work is done by private firms, which are obliged to hire censors as part of establishing
themselves in the Chinese market (12). Depending on size, each website hires up to
1,000 censors to review posts, enforce Party mandates on newly banned words, and often,
to simply browse for suspicious material. But again we encounter a grey area here, because
while the government is fairly strict on certain terms and topics, generally speaking, dissent
is allowed on the Chinese internet. You can complain about the government, even
in an aggressive fashion. What you can’t do is try to mobilize your
community to action based on those complaints. A fascinating research article which I’ve
cited in the description, conducted a large-scale experiment to study this phenomenon (13). They found: “Chinese people can write the
most vitriolic blog posts about even the top Chinese leaders without fear of censorship,
but if they write in support of or opposition to an ongoing protest—or even about a rally
in favor of a popular policy or leader—they will be censored.” It seems part of the lesson learned after
Tiananmen Square- the lesson about finding a middle ground to maintain control, was to
let people voice opinions, but not to let them congregate. So why let people sound off at all? Well, another aspect of internet control in
China is mass surveillance. A lot of this surveillance is aimed at influencers
and thought leaders like journalists and writers, but by law, the browsing activity of all internet
users is gathered by internet service providers and passed along to the government (3,122). And this can naturally mean suppression of
dissidents with a crowd behind them, but it also means in a twisted way that the government
can better know what its population wants, and even use concentrated complaints about
officials to make staffing decisions in local offices (13). But I don’t want to mince words here. ‘Whataboutisms’ on America aside, in my
opinion, this is dystopian stuff. The researchers I mentioned before called
the Great Firewall, “the largest selective suppression of human communication in the
recorded history of any country,” (13). And the suppression seems to be intensifying. In 2013, Xi Jinping spearheaded a new committee
called the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission to oversee and guide the government bureaucracy
managing the internet. And naturally he made himself chairman (3,121;14). Along with eliminating term limits in 2018,
this move has placed Xi in position to mold China’s internet for the foreseeable future
(15). Crackdowns on VPNs have been widely reported
in the media, including the imprisonment of a software developer, accused of operating
a VPN to circumvent government blocks (16). But despite the crackdown, use of VPNs continues
to be widespread. As we mentioned before, with a VPN, internet
users can simply hop over the Firewall to access banned sites. Part of the reason this is still somewhat
tolerated is business related. Technology companies rely on VPNs in order
to access things like GitHub, and the continued growth of the Chinese economy demands open
access the World Wide Web, not just a ‘China Wide Web’. The government knows this, and is therefore
hamstrung from completely eliminating VPN use, at least for now. And the Communist Party isn’t in a huge
rush. That’s because they’ve learned another,
more insidious lesson about the nature of information exchange. In her book ‘Censored: Distraction and Diversion
Inside China’s Great Firewall’, Margaret E. Roberts describes three methods the Party
uses to control the internet. The first is fear. This is when the government uses punishment
or threats of punishment to stop certain stories or comments from being posted. These tactics, like the repression in Maoist
area, are immediately effective, but come with drawbacks. People are more likely to negatively respond
to strongman efforts to censor them, and will actively seek out information if they sense
that the government is sensitive about it being seen. So outright suppression is usually reserved
for leaders, protesters, or pesky journalists. More commonly seen are two other tactics,
what Roberts calls flooding and friction. Flooding, refers to efforts of the government
to drown out critical thought in a sea of pro government messages, or sometimes just
general confusion. News embarrassing to the regime is subject
to a deluge of confusing and contradictory pro government articles and comments. The hope is that the average citizen won’t
take the time to figure it all out, and just assume the waters are too muddied to know
the truth. Westerners will recognize these tactics from
their use in Russia’s ongoing cyber warfare efforts on US social media sites like Twitter
and Facebook. Since 2004, a so-called ‘50 cent party’
has operated in China. It’s a group of students paid per post on
behalf of the government (17). The goal of these efforts is not to convince
everyone, but rather to frustrate people, make them give up trying to find the right
answer in an ocean of contradiction. This dynamic is also critical for the third
and most unsettling tactic: friction. Roberts defines friction as, “increasing
the cost, either in time or money, of access or spread of information.” In other words, rather than simply banning
a website with unflattering information about the Communist Party, just make it a little
slower to load. Rather than arresting the organizers of a
protest, just make the messenger app WeChat lag in the areas you expect a gathering. Ban some websites like Twitter and Wikipedia
with the full knowledge that some will jump the Firewall with a VPN, but most won’t. These methods rely on a darker part of human
nature: our impatience. The weight of evidence shows that when it
comes to internet content, people simply won’t wait. Look at the example of Google in 2010. During a disagreement with the Chinese government,
Google starting refusing to manipulate search results as instructed. As a result, the government directed ISPs
to reject a quarter of Google’s traffic. To be clear, the instructions weren’t to
reject all traffic to Google, just some. Nonetheless, Chinese users simply stopped
using Google. Usage numbers crashed over three years- their
market share in China went from around 40% to under 2%. The mere sight of a loading bar had driven
consumers to domestic chinese search engines. Google was formally banned three years later,
but it was already inconsequential. In this way, impatience can serve the interest
of the state. Sure, you say, these tactics work on some,
but dedicated, politically engaged citizens will make the effort to circumvent the censor,
wait for the page to load, call their friend when messenger is down to ask if the protest
was rescheduled. But the trick is that the average citizen
won’t. They’ll just use the government-approved
sites, hit the back button if a link loads slow, or stay home rather than try to find
a demonstration. The average citizen won’t notice if 9 of
the top 10 search results for Tiananmen square have disappeared or been moved to page 4;
they’ll just click the first result on page one like everyone does. The government doesn’t just hope, it knows
a significant portion of people with busy lives and limited time will just give up,
or even more likely, fail to notice the manipulation at all. If you’re flipping through the dictionary,
and no word appears between disseminule and dissepiment, is it because a government censor
made it so? What word were you looking for again? When people don’t feel the weight of the
government censorship, they don’t act. As internet use skyrockets, as more and more
Chinese citizens are spending their days on smartphones, the government is playing a huge
role in how that internet is laid out. Entertainment to the top, dissent to the bottom. By using subtle manipulation over heavy-handedness,
they’ll weave reality for over a billion people. With the world’s internet becoming ever
more divided, it’s easy to sit back and relax about our own. China’s problems are china’s But is our
situation really so simple? With spying, security breaches, deep fakes,
neutrality rules, internet algorithms messing with our emotions, –juggling 100 unique 15
character passwords AND upper case, lower case, and ‘don’t use your real name in
the password!’ or ‘don’t use your birthday in the password because then you’ll definitely
get hacked’ AND…– The internet can be a lot. But I’ve got a tool that’s helping with
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100 thoughts on “How China Controls the Internet

  1. I have no doubt that Eric Schmidt went to China to develop its internet as a beta for what Google will do here soon.

  2. It's not about censorship, it's about America's companies stealing data. America actually fought back and banned Huawei.

  3. 动态网自由门 天安門 天安门 法輪功 李洪志 Free Tibet 六四天安門事件 The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 天安門大屠殺 The Tiananmen Square Massacre 反右派鬥爭 The Anti-Rightist Struggle 大躍進政策 The Great Leap Forward 文化大革命 The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution 人權 Human Rights 民運 Democratization 自由 Freedom 獨立 Independence 多黨制 Multi-party system 台灣 臺灣 Taiwan Formosa 中華民國 Republic of China 西藏 土伯特 唐古特 Tibet 達賴喇嘛 Dalai Lama 法輪功 Falun Dafa 新疆維吾爾自治區 The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region 諾貝爾和平獎 Nobel Peace Prize 劉暁波 Liu Xiaobo 民主 言論 思想 反共 反革命 抗議 運動 騷亂 暴亂 騷擾 擾亂 抗暴 平反 維權 示威游行 李洪志 法輪大法 大法弟子 強制斷種 強制堕胎 民族淨化 人體實驗 肅清 胡耀邦 趙紫陽 魏京生 王丹 還政於民 和平演變 激流中國 北京之春 大紀元時報 九評論共産黨 獨裁 專制 壓制 統一 監視 鎮壓 迫害 侵略 掠奪 破壞 拷問 屠殺 活摘器官 誘拐 買賣人口 遊進 走私 毒品 賣淫 春畫 賭博 六合彩 天安門 天安门 法輪功 李洪志 Winnie the Pooh 劉曉波动态网自由门

  4. For who think that Chinese internet filtering system is evil and scary, my feeling is that Chinese government is acting like many Chinese parents, who cover children's eyes when there are "sensitive" scenarios on TV. This behavior might seem ridiculous, especially when the "children" are actually grown-ups. The government should realize that Chinese people are educated now, we will have the ability to tell the truth and make judgement, you don't have to filter information for us anymore. But I would consider this filtering system as a culture thing, instead of a political weapon.

  5. Is it just me or do I find it funny that people find some chinaman who looks like your typical Chinese takeout owner to be this all powerful being? I personally dont find Chicoms to be physically intimidating. Bullied a few of them in my high school days and slept with one of their sisters.

  6. Wrong. Chinese government owns youku and webo and such. They make money out of these medias. Youtube and google and such is direct competition. Its money. Its always money.

  7. using vpn and watching youtube from china..
    comment like it is a great thing..
    wake up china
    try to publish article about democracy you will dissapear with the article

  8. I hate sensitive governments so friggin much it's so annoying and dumb imagine thinking you're so amazing and great to the point where you can't let people have opinions and stand up for themselves, so disgusting.

  9. A Chinese girl I was sleeping with for a week whilst she was here with exchange students told me she can’t speak about what her government are doing in South China Sea with new military island. Told me her government told them not to speak to foreigners about China politics. They are not free people. Sad

  10. What China prohibits and controls is the information of fake news and anti-China forces. For example, most Western media such as the BBC have long smeared China, and China is seen with colored glasses. The Chinese know the world and have never been to most of China. People do not understand China and even have a prejudice against China. Westerners who have been brainwashed by the Western media for a long time, as a Chinese, I sympathize with you.

  11. A deputy prime minister in Singapore once said that the general consciousness is that the freedom of speech that causes false news to lead to social disorder is not a good democracy. The common people want to walk safely on the street at night, with good public order and social order. A girl in China can walk safely on the street even at 1-2 am, but there is no such freedom in the United States and some European countries.

  12. So, really? I can’t discuss most of the ideas that I find most politically interesting to me personally. The Government and the people most influential on the Government do not share my contradictory political ambitions. This leaves me with the possibility that I could foment a conspiracy to achieve my political ambitions. I have no interest in doing this. Barring that possibility, the Government should not make information available to people like me that can do nothing but harm the reader. I should at least be required to to make interpersonal contact and be in actual communication with people who share my interests, which is something I feel too politically apathetic to pursue.

  13. Yeah,we don’t have access to youtube, facebook, google. So what? They are not the symbol of life quality, not to mention the symbol of democracy and the fact is we are still developing well. And fake info in this video just reveal you are innocent.

  14. That's because they always feel well facing to Chinese. Chinese need they teach what's is right which should do.
    The fact is only thing is right is what the medias told you is right. West people is right. China people is lower and rude bad????? You blind everyone and yourself
    And make money for that

  15. when you say freedom of speech you mean freedom of fake news, correct? the whole video just proved how arrogant and immature you are

  16. 11:10 really one of the worst russian collusion evidence I've seen. Why would you even put this in a video about china. Putting your own political opinion in something thats not related really hurts the point your trying to make. Oh and Its not like the media doesn't use flooding on trump.

  17. "Entertainment to the top, dissent at the bottom."=This is very well said and also applies on a broader level to mainland Chinese society. Materialism is growing among the youth, and the government pays lip service to "spiritual values" over rampant materialism, but deep down the know that these materialistic distractions both in terms of conspicuous consumption and young people breaking their backs to earn money is far more desirable than having the time and energy and will to ask deeper questions and demand the truths of the extremely opaque political system.

  18. I'm sure it's pretty easy to access western Internet and it's prolly done by a large portion of the population, specially young ppl, same as the situation with piracy here. Its prolly kept quiet cuz talking about it wud prolly encourage more people to do it, and obviously not many will admit to breaking the law voluntarily

  19. I'm watching this on YouTube in China lol XD

    And 1984, Animal Farm, Brave New World haven't ban yet.South Park have been ban just few days ago…

  20. Maybe if a government censors "1984" or "brave new world" stories about authoritarian regimes you might be living in one

  21. I think most important is we can have ourselves wechat,baidu,youku,sina,alibaba,renren,neteasy,tencent. tencent alibaba and baidu is top 10 of the world net companies

  22. YouTube and Facebook are freedom of expression and fair is the funniest thing in the 21st century. 一天到晚造谣,唯恐天下不乱,世界的搅屎棍。你们国家是亡了吗?天天管我们家的事。

  23. On a side, it's fine, coz china don't let be influenced by that peverted american media(with 80 new genders and islamization)👌👌 however the bad thing is in fact that china wants to control internet coz at least american media let you be a little bit free

  24. They've blocked all websites that are used by west to brainwash people. Have you seen Google, Youtube and Facebook? They are blocking every user who thinks different, they are pushing only mainstream media news to your throats

  25. A VPN is unreliable at the best of times in China, slow, annoying and you never know which one to buy. Plus they turn it off during the government meetings in Beijing every year anyway.

  26. non government approved VPN's are banned in China and new laws gives the governments full acess to all servers in the country.

  27. Fear —> Punishment for posting negative comments.
    Flood —> Flood a negative post with pro-government comments/posts.
    Friction —> Put a VPN, make a website load slower. Take advantage of human’s impatience.

    Entertainment to the top, information to the bottom.

  28. Because of the Western media, the Falun Gong media slandered the Communist regime and launched a color revolution to overthrow the Communist regime, just like the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Tibet in Xinjiang is very good. There are no dead people. I have recently traveled to Tibet in Xinjiang. I also welcome you to travel to Xinjiang in the Western media. Please don't make a smack, thank you. In 56 ethnic groups in China, 55 vip, only the Han nationality has the lowest status.

  29. So what happens if I'm an American with a VPN that lives in the US spam posts on chinese social media saying harsh things about the chinese government? They can't get me 🙂

    xijingping sucks
    I'm chinese I'm allowed to say this

  30. Love your video… You did a good job in diving in and explaining how and why things are the way they are in China…. Unlike most Anti-china content creators that literally just bark and complain.

    Keep it up!

  31. We don expect you to agree but your respect, if wall disappear now more confusion will happen in this video's comment zone ,you will face more evil language-attack from thousands of low educated Chinese netizens, because in China the individual is bonded with the country it's different from western country we highlight the impression of this country I can't expect others will intend to communicate rationally inside Youtube,it's the truth.


  33. Just a few days earlier,when given a speech at a meeting of German business leaders,Merkel put forward a warning that EU should regain "Digital Sovereignty" from
    US giants.

    She called on the EU to develop its own cloud platform and reduce its dependence on Amazon/Microsoft/Google/Youtube and other large US companies that provide cloud service technology.

    In the early days of Internet development,everyone thought that the Internet was an absolutely free space.Only China was aware of the existence of "Network Sovereignty".

    Today ,EU basically loses its netwark sovereignty to US,guess whos laughing now?

    BTW:Russia Needs Digital Sovereignty,says Putin 9 months ago

  34. Xi Ping: you…you guys gave me no choice, I need to control more things

    Me: pulls out gun Do you respect freedom of speech or your own corpse!
    bashes gun on Ping's Forehead this is what the prisoners in your camp feel

    (sorry, just venting)

  35. Its called NO FREEDOM. Its oppressive. Freedom is God-given. But China's "Xi Jinping" is a rogue person that thirsts for power and control. He's the only "god" in his world, even though his Creator is watching him make his choices and will subject "XI" to scrutiny, when "Xi" passes into death, and stands before Jesus Christ at Judgement.

  36. One of my friends had his student buddy in a Chinese school tell him she hated Xi Jinping because he was 'ruining the economy'. I just wish there were more of these people so they can speak up

  37. I deeply thought so until I went to abroad 10 years ago,thank you YouTube for showing all western's Hypocrisy and made me love china again.
    BTW,good editing skill.

  38. Well it's 2019 and i can assure you nobody gives a flying fuck about democracy and rights
    People only care about having a good job and getting paid well
    And have a good bank balance

  39. Every time I post something over U ighurs youtube blocks it! What complicity over this LIVE genocide! I had to separate the U from the rest of the word for this post to be visible. The same happens when I want to highlight MBS' complicity. What a rotten world we live in!

  40. do you really think people in china don't know the oppression they are suffering and the tiananmen thing just because of censorship??
    bro, you have internet and "free press" and probably don't care about the oppression people are suffering in your own country.
    control is better asserted in the way of dominant ideology and alienation.

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