I originally saw this article in the IHT, but found it online on E-Commerce News.

Howard W. French
China's Web Police Send Mixed Message

...Internet cafe users in China have long been subject to an extraordinary range of controls. They include cameras placed discreetly throughout the establishments to monitor and identify users and Web masters, and Internet cafe managers who keep an eye on user activity, whether electronically or by patrolling the premises.

The average Internet user, meanwhile, neither sees nor, in many cases, suspects the activities of a force widely estimated to number as many as 30,000 Internet police officers. Experts on China's Internet say the officers are constantly engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with equally determined Web surfers, blocking access to sites that the government considers politically offensive, monitoring users who visit other politically sensitive sites and killing off discussion threads on Internet bulletin boards.

[...]

Asked if the privacy of Internet users could be infringed, the official said that the Shanghai government had noted the issue, but added that "Internet bars are public areas, and some experts say that what one says in a public area should not be considered private."

"Some experts say".. ;-) Some experts will say anything.

Seriously though, I can only see how this will get worse for both sides. Obviously the "arms vendors" will make money in the cat-and-mouse game, but can China afford to ramp up the Internet police force as China gets more and more wired/wireless. I wonder how long this "control" can continue and how much it's going to cost them. I guess that for now, they believe the control is worth the price.

4 Comments

Yep. It's probably more annoying for the chinese that have to use netbars then for me, a westerner with his own computer. I don't really risk anything, and can do what I want. There are anonimiser proxies that allow you to access most banned sites.

I'd mainly rely on the complete lack of l33t skillz of the internet censors - I suspect they're pretty clueless about how the internet works. Or they don't care, as long as they keep an eye on a majority of people.

I think the arms race is more of an illusion. I think the Chinese Gov't is kidding itself if it thinks it can keep tabs on everyone using the internet. Like you said Joi, what do they do when more users come online?

On top of that, I imagine they are using M$ Windows, plenty of loopholes for dissidents to use.

I think China needs to face the fact that it won't win in the long run.

Chomper I disagree: the Chinese gov't has more than enough manpower and money to throw at this problem. Technically they are not so far behind, either, especially with the complicity of foreign networking companies (Google and Cisco being the best known) and the skill of Chinese engineers. (The poor quality of their management may make some this a wash in short term).

Also, you can bet they're not using windows...the Chinese gov't has put a lot of effort into linux and uses it extensively, especially in software research projects.

Anyway, Joi, you tell us. What does the market research into TypePad China tell you? And by all means, let us know when they're hiring...

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