Michael Lerner

Thursday - Nov 18, 2010

Censorship sealI’ve done a bit of editing to the news article below, but you can probably guess where it’s from:

“The latest group of netizens has been named and shamed for spreading online rumors and disturbing public order by a website that assesses Internet credibility.

The details of 14 netizens, including their online user names, real surnames, IP addresses, real addresses and legal violations from the period of June through October were posted on a website run by the Information Network Security Association and supported by the municipal public security bureau.

The latest entry was about a man who on Oct 6 spread online rumors about fake murders. According to the entry, he has since repented following police intervention.

Other violations exposed include spreading rumors about bombing a government building, posting articles on how to make explosives and promoting the flying of model planes when the city had banned flying objects.

Three of the 14 exposed were fined, while the rest were cautioned by the police, according to the website. No one was detained or jailed.

Earlier this year, the website publicized the details of 66 netizens who committed similar violations between April 2007 and May 2010.

However, many netizens have expressed concern that such exposure means their online activities are under surveillance.

In contrast, some other netizens find that exposure is beneficial to maintaining a healthy Internet environment. “More exposures could help reduce fake information online,” said another netizen.”

If you guessed, China, you’re right. Despite making huge economic advances that have created 875,000 multi-millionaires, freedom of speech remains out of reach in this nation of 1.3 billion, which also has the world’s largest online population.

Censorship is not confined just to what one posts online. The top 3 U.S. websites, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are blocked in China; Google now operates from Hong Kong to avoid censoring search results.

Will the Great Firewall eventually crumble? What do you think?