RealTime IT News

China Retains a Tight Grip on Access

Not Since the cultural revolution has the Chinese government worked seemingly so hard to control the flow of information.

But as technology, especially the Internet, continues to connect the world, censorship in the most populous country has managed to keep up with rapid changes in technology, university researchers said in a study this week.

"China's Internet filtering regime is the most sophisticated effort of its kind in the world," said the report conducted by the OpenNet Initiative (ONI).

ONI, comprised of researchers from Harvard University, the University of Toronto and Cambridge University in England, said the Chinese government has employed an elaborate system of government agencies and public and private citizens to control access to information on the Internet.

The study found China, which has the second-largest population of Internet users behind the United States, has gone to great lengths to clamp down on the flow of "restricted information."

The filtering takes place primarily at the backbone level of China's network, with individual service providers implementing their own blocking systems, the study said.

The report also said that, unlike filtering systems in other countries, China's "filtering regime" is carried out at numerous control points and appears to be dynamic in nature, "changing along a variety of axes over time.

"China's filtering regime is pervasive, sophisticated and effective," said the study.

Testing conducted by the group identified efforts to prevent access to a wide range of "sensitive" material, including pornography, religious material and political dissent.

At the government's disposal in its battle are often its own agencies, as well as independent ISP who chose to restrict access to information on the Falun Gong, the Dalai Lama, Tiananmen Square and other topics deemed sensitive, the study finds.

Netizens seeking Web access to sites containing information relating to Taiwanese and Tibetan independence, opposition parties and anti-communist movements also found themselves blocked to the information, according to the report.

Curiously enough, the report says, most American media sites such as CNN, MSNBC and ABC were available in China. However, access to the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) remained blocked.

The filtering process is also implemented in growing online communication trends such as blogs, the study finds.