China\'s Disappearing Debate

Imagine sitting down to write a controversial blog entry on the death of Pope John Paul II, and then curiously getting no reponses or comments to it at all. Since I often have posts with little or no comments, this would not concern me a bit. Apparently in China it should. From Angry Chinese Blogger:

Something else that proven worrisome to China watchers, is the confirmation that Chinese web portals indeed are using censorship software that leaves the offending messages on the system, making them visible to the poster, but invisible to other users.

Such a system is disturbing on a number of levels, not least of all because it leaves the poster completely unaware that they have been censored because they can see their own messages.

"It's not that they are taken off, it just means whoever issued the statement, only they can see it. Other people cannot see it,"

Representative, Sohu.com, China.

The use of such a censorship system appears to be a new tool in China’s arsenal that can be used to stifle debate by promoting the view that there is no debate, even among those who are attempting to debate it.

For example: If a poster receives no responses, then by inference nobody must be interested, and if users cannot see posts by other like minded posters, then by inference they must not exist.

Result – debate dies due to the belief that debate does not exist.

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I've considered implementing

I've considered implementing a similar system for battling comment spam (show spam messages to spammers, but hide them from everyone else). Then it would take longer for the spammers to figure out whether they had gotten past my anti-spam filters.

Its a private business that

Its a private business that is using the technology. Certainly the word is getting out. But this is more than just censorship, at its core it intentionally misleads those who are being censored about the fact that they are being censored, so that they can be further misled on a broader scale about the nature of the public discourse, and shared opinions out there on the subject of their post.

The question would be, What

The question would be, What do they consider 'Offending'. Do they mean those posters that rock the Chinese Government's boat? Vulgarity? Or are they talking about the normal spew of hatred that comes out of most Chinese sites. I suspect they are trying to limit the embarrassment created by the average Chinese 'I hate the Japanese, Americans, and everyone else' rant.

I find it hard to believe

I find it hard to believe that clever Chinese net-savvy citizens, having grown up in an onerous and challenging "censorship and surveillance society", haven't evolved unpublicized ways of gaming the communication system. Remember Russian samizdat?

Here's a maxim for the new, wired century -- all tyrannies eventually fail, only now, more so.

So some are in a funk that

So some are in a funk that the Chi-coms are messing with the net. Who'd of even thunk a few years ago they'd let a thousand citizens on such a medium with or without sneaky restrictions.... let alone a hundred million! 15 years ago placing a phone call from China was a huge ordeal and you knew they were listening. 10 steps forward, one step back.:wink: