If you thought going to Facebook Jail for posting “hate speech” was bad – and it is – here’s a tip: do not move to China. The government there has been controlling what users can see and do online for years. For those who value human rights, the situation is getting worse at an accelerating pace.
With the help from certain high-tech giants, the country promises to lead the world in becoming the first actual Orwellian surveillance state.
In May 2010, the Communist Chinese government issued its first white paper regarding what it called “a crystallization of human wisdom” – the internet.
The white paper acknowledges the usefulness and importance of advancing this digital science and technology. It “energetically advocates and actively supports the development and application of the Internet across the country.”
The white paper guarantees that citizens will enjoy a free press and freedom of speech on the internet:
“The Chinese government encourages and supports the development of Internet news communication undertakings, provides the public with a full range of news, and at the same time guarantees the citizens’ freedom of speech on the Internet as well as the public’s right to know, to participate, to be heard and to oversee in accordance with the law.”
This is where the white paper reveals the “gotcha” clause: the Chinese policy uses “the law” to control online communications. Now we know that this law is targeting the very things the white paper promised would be given: unhindered access to World Wide Web news and social media internet sites for both residents and foreign users:
“The Chinese government will stick to the basic principle of administering the Internet in accordance with the law, try to follow the nature and law of development of the Internet in the light of the national conditions, and promote the scientific development of the Internet with effective administration so as to contribute to the development of the Internet worldwide.”
In 2011, China began requiring internet companies to sign a “Public Pledge of Self-Regulation and Professional Ethics for China Internet Industry” which purported to regulate the “patriotic observance of law, equitableness, trustworthiness and honesty.”
Signers accused of violating the state-mandated pledge to uphold the nation’s laws would be subject to review by the Internet Society of China. If found guilty, such a company could have it “membership” (read: authorization to do business) revoked.
Since Xi Jinping became China’s Communist Party leader in November of 2012, media censorship has flourished. In February 2016, the Chinese president toured the top three state-run media outlets. His message: you must swear absolute loyalty to the Party and follow the Party line in “thought, politics, and action.”
Xi was completely candid about what the online service companies were in business to do – serve the state by dishing out distorted information:
“The media run by the party and the government are the propaganda fronts and must have the party as their family name.”
Xi told tech workers that “All the work by the party’s media must reflect the party’s will, safeguard the party’s authority, and safeguard the party’s unity.”
Freedom House published in its findings on “Freedom on the Net 2016” that internet freedom “around the world declined in 2016 for the sixth consecutive year” with China leading the way for the second year in a row. President Xi’s “information security” policy was proving effective in providing both surveillance and censorship.
Another effect observed was an increase in self-policing while surfing the net:
“Dozens of prosecutions related to online expression have increased self-censorship, as have legal restrictions introduced in 2015.”
Since 2011, the Chinese state-operated telecom company Tencent has been subsidizing and regulating the nation’s largest social media site, called WeChat. With over a thousand million users – that’s one billion as reckoned in American English – WeChat is a primary source for news and views, just like its American social media counterparts Twitter and Facebook.
Critics of WeChat say it promotes “the spread of sensationalist falsehoods.”
In June 2018, a new WeChat in-app feature lets users validate news items by consulting – guess who? – WeChat employees (or volunteers) who perform the fact-checking.
One very clever ploy over at WeChat is a “Top Ten Rumors” category. The government systematically debunks leading consumer education topics such as health and safety, product recalls, and scams as fake news. Here are two examples of state-driven information control:
- An article told people to stop using microwave ovens because microwaved food gives people cancer (false).
- Chinese currency can be scanned in the app QQ to see if they are counterfeit (also false).
WeChat even has a Google-like “WeChat rumor debunking assistant” which 300,000 people consult daily.
This is all well and good but observers point out that Chinese online censors have the power to delete any and all unsavory, anti-state, and illegal articles before anyone else can view them. This form of censorship pre-empts any fact-checking since there are no facts to check.
Weibo is an online service that has been called the Chinese Twitter. The micro-blogging platform enables the government to anticipate and counteract planned protests through monitoring all communications (just like the NSA in the United States).
Between Weibo snooping and WeChat censorship, a new generation of Chinese citizens is growing up ignorant of significant historical events that have been scrubbed from the official narrative. Any private or group chat conversation that mentions Tiananmen Square, Tibet or the Falun Gong (a forbidden religious group) is banned. The user is not notified that their message was never sent.
China is racing ahead in the technology game, all for the sake of Communism and totalitarian statism. There is evidence they hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails. And they added a spy chip to thousands of computers that were purchased by top U.S. companies.
Now, U.S. tech giant Google is going ahead with its contract to develop a customized, censored version of the search engine to help China perfect its internet chokehold. Google employees with a conscience and a clue are quitting rather than support the Communist regime.
Things are bad in China and we predict they will only get worse. Even more disturbing is the thought that other countries are also quietly following China’s lead.
Will China create the blueprint for New World Order domination through state-directed propaganda, censorship, and surveillance? And what, if anything, can the rest of us do about it?