So the net routes around censorship? Tell it to China

China has succeeded in blocking the flow of news about its crackdown on Tibetan protesters – at least in China. While Western news outlets are getting information out to the rest of the world, many Chinese remain in the dark.

tibet.jpgChina has succeeded in blocking the flow of news about its crackdown on Tibetan protesters – at least in China. While Western news outlets are getting information out to the rest of the world, many Chinese remain in the dark. (This photo is of Tsezin Totsang (a 32-year old male from Thechung), via Students for a Free Tibet (warning: graphic images).) According to the Wall Street Journal, here are just some of the information vacuums awaiting Chinese news-seekers:

  • Baidu.com, China's largest search engine, turns up no news in a search for "Tibet" (the fifth most popular search term on Baidu Monday), while searches for "Tibet riot" produce hits to pages that have been removed.
  • Major Internet portals Sina and Sohu.com have no news.
  • Chinese Internet video sites Tudou.com, Youku.com and 56.com are similarly vacant.

Actually, I did find some news on Sina:

Police showed great restraint and used no lethal force in dealing with the riots in Lhasa last Friday, the chairman of the Tibet autonomous regional government said yesterday. "The riots caused heavy loss of life and property, and seriously disturbed social order," Qiangba Puncog told a news briefing in Beijing.
With news sites blocked, some Chinese are turning to alternative Internet sources, which are probably being blocked as quickly as possible. YouTube is blocked but Wired notes that:
Much of the reporting from Lhasa and elsewhere in Tibet comes from bloggers, tourists and activism organizations rather than traditional news outlets, which appear to have been blocked from the region.

Some enterprising bloggers are trying to evade China's Golden Shield by behaving like spammers -- deliberately mis-spelling words that China's censors have deemed troublesome and placed in its filtering system.

The censorship raises a challenge to the much-vaunted claim that the Internet views censorship as network damage and routes around it. It's a claim Bill Gates himself repeated last month.

I don't see any risk in the world at large that someone will restrict free content flow on the Internet. You cannot control the Internet.

Um, apparently, you can.