To say that the Internet has absolutely no influence in my life would be a blatant lie. Furthermore, if I said that I didn’t spend hours upon hours of my time on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, I would once again be lying. The Internet has changed my life significantly but it’s not just my life we are talking about here.
The Internet has shaped and moulded the globalised world as we know it. It has allowed for an expansive communication system between nations, enabled individuals to participate in global debate and has moreover meant technological advancement and thus a new way of life for those previously cut off from the wider international community. It is this Internet that has also been controlled and censored by “one of the world’s largest economies,” China (McQueen, 2010).
“Hundreds of millions of Chinese internet users are denied the basic access to information that people around the world take for granted” (McQueen, 2010). The Great Firewall of China makes reference to “an Internet-technology security device intended to protect and shield one’s own network from other networks by selectively permitting or denying traffic” (Tsui, 2007). The firewall controls and censors its people from other influences, acting to “block websites outside China that facilitate speech, and funnel the users to websites that facilitate speech but are hosted inside China” (Tsui, 2007).
This form of censoring occurs in numerous stages, as the Chinese government not only blocks outside web sources as explained above, but also hinders access to websites based on ‘keyword blocking’ and manual censoring, where anything deemed to be obscurely threatening will be blocked. (The Hindustan Times, 2012). As Craig McQueen divulges, a Google image search of ‘Tiananmen Square’ will be significantly different depending upon where you are located in the world: “China will see all images of the 1989 protest and massacre removed, replaced with pictures of the square itself” (McQueen, 2010).
But what does this extreme form of censorship mean for avid Chinese social media users? Whilst China prevents its Internet users from accessing webpages and social networking sites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, this does not mean that they have been cut off from social networking all together. Rather, China has simplified the way in which its users interact with other citizens, keeping this interaction local rather than allowing for global discourse.
Tsui notes that “while Chinese Internet users cannot access Blogger, Typepad or Wikipedia, there are the local Chinese variants, such as Blogbus, Bokee and Baidupedia” (Tsui, 2007). Other Chinese variants of social networking sites include: Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter; Renren, China’s very own Facebook; Douban, a Chinese web page mimicking MySpace; Diandian, the Chinese Tumblr; and Youku, the Chinese answer to YouTube.
The influence of the Internet is thus proven to be monumental and “the Internet has changed China profoundly” (Wang, 2006, p.viii). Whilst the Great Firewall of China may seem to be an unnecessary evil to those on the outskirts, “the Internet is only a technology. It is how the technology is used by people and society that determines its influences” (Wang, 2006, p.7)
– Julie, 2013, ’10 Chinese Social Media Sites You Should Be Following’, Synthesio, 27 March, viewed 6 April 2015, <http://synthesio.com/corporate/en/2013/uncategorized/10-chinese-social-media-sites-you-should-be-following/#>
– McQueen, C., 2010, ‘THE GREAT FIREWALL OF CHINA: Why Google went to war with country that’s home to one billion,’ Daily Record, March 24, viewed 4 April 2015, <http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/docview/328332806?pq-origsite=summon&accountid=15112>.>
– The Hindustan Times, 2012, The Great Firewall of China, 27 August, viewed 6 April 2015, <http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/docview/1035061000?pq-origsite=summon&accountid=15112>
– Tsui, L, 2007, ‘An Inadequate Metaphor: The Great Firewall and Chinese Internet Censorship’, Global Dialogue, vol. 9.1/2, pp.60-68 <http://www.worlddialogue.org/content.php?id=400>
– Wang, X 2006, ‘Behind the Great Firewall: The Internet and Democratisation in China’, University of Michigan, USA.