Is China poised to further gag portal discussion groups?

Adam links to an intriguing story from Reporters without Borders on China’s efforts to step up Internet censorship via new directives sent to the country’s big portals.

The council of state’s information bureau, which regulates online activity, explained the new directives to those in charge of China’s main Internet portals :, and

Changes were quickly apparent in the forums on these portals, Reporters Without Borders has learned. Some discussion groups with a slightly political content or ones dealing with social issues were closed or redirected to entertainment forums (culture, people and so on). This was the case with the news group Xin Kong (Starry sky), which was closed and replaced by a forum not considered subversive.

It also seems that debates of a political nature have virtually disappeared from forums as a result of stricter filtering criteria used by the Ban Zhu (discussion group moderators). At the same time, there has been a surge of posts by Internet users complaining about censoring of their messages, which they are unable to post online.

Reporters without Borders warns that in the wake of these directives, US tech firm Verisign’s “decision to involve China in the management of global Internet traffic appeared extremely dangerous.” This is a topic I don’t understand well enough to comment on, but it’s spelled out in detail over at Truth Laid Bear (also via Adam). It sure sounds ominous, but Verisign says not to worry.

One can develop permanent migraines and dizzy spells trying to figure out whether censorship in China is lessening or worsening. I think the best generalization is that on social issues — sex, fashion, self-expression — things are looking better, but on political issues and anything that can make the government look bad, censorship is still tight and may be getting worse, with some big exceptions all around. After all, Vagina Monologues was just banned, while on the other hand the government has allowed the amazingly critical Nongmin Diaocha to be released to the public.

So generalizations don’t work too well. Things are zig-zagging in every conceivable direction. What are we to think?

The Discussion: One Comment

Help on the way or more web censorship?

News related to China and the internet is coming in from all directions. I’ll summarize what others have covered. I’m trying to figure all this out so to keep things simple I’ll summarize what others have written. Reporters without Borders…

March 1, 2004 @ 2:26 pm | Comment

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