China Nips Blossoming Web Video Bud January 10, 2008Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video, YouTube.
Tags: China Censorship
2008 is beginning to look like 1984 behind the Great Firewall. China’s economic juggernaut reveals its darker side yet again as Beijing moves to nip a blossoming online video industry in the bud with new rules that could block YouTube and other services in the country.
Starting Jan 31, sites that provide video programming or allow users to upload video must have a permit and be either state-owned or state-controlled. Permits for video hosting sites will be subject to renewal every three years and operators who commit violations may be banned for up to 5 years.
Politically or morally objectionable content will be forbidden under the new rules. That digital contraband would include politically sensitive messages about racial minorities and human rights as well as sexual images, although most are banned already. Providers will be required to delete such content if it is uploaded and to report each incident to the State.
This new policy about video sharing sites may or may not be a big deal. Youtube was blocked for several weeks at the end of 2007 after a Chinese version of their site was launched, but normally there is no official notification or justification that a service has stopped working. One day, you can access it and the next day it is blocked.
Perhaps Youtube will become semi permanently blocked like Wikipedia, but Google has a history of adapting itself to be compliant with China’s culture of Internet censorship. It is more likely that the China’s Youtube copysites like tudou.com will have to register with and be subject to more control from the Chinese government.
To be sure massive censorship in the US exists though mostly driven by special interest groups and corporate advertisers. These manipulate investigative reporting and block facts from getting into the media by threatening to pull ad dollars from newspapers and TV stations.
Google is well known to the gay blogging community for unfair adjudication of standards when it comes to adwords account approvals. It is known in China to be a partner and advocate of censorship as long as currency, American or Chinese, is involved.
While the statute could limit online video to state-controlled media sites and ban foreign-owned video-hosting sites, it may also go unenforced, serving more as a threat to coerce video-hosting sites to police themselves. China’s popular video websites are run by private companies, and have in recent years been the focus of attention from venture-capital investors.
If it feels like everyone is crying “wolf” or “totalitarian” too early, it bears remembering that China is a hotbed of bad Internet activity. Presently the government lacks the technology to filter video as selectively as it filters text. The move may scare sites into censoring the content authorities want banned.
All said, the Chinese are fine, hard working people with a great and proud history. You can’t stop the Chinese, but it’s unfortunate that a state with a distrust in its own citizens has chosen affirmation power through control of information.
Journey Into China’s Internet Censorship