Censoring Flickr in China

Since I’ve been discussing China’s Internet censorship practices, and I’ve been doing it pretty much since I’ve started blogging, this is the most recent example of how what’s thought to be the most robust and sophisticated censorship system in world is a useless technological solution if not implemented “properly”. The news of the government censoring a very popular site will spread faster, but instead of applying the predefined subversive content detection practice and allow anything else, they’re mocking their overhyped censorship system by blocking the entire site instead of either removing the content in question or blocking access to the specific Flickr set. Futile attempt? For sure, but far more gentle approach of censorship compared to the current one.

Various news sources reported that China’s censoring the entire Flickr. As you can see the greatfirewallofchina.org test confirms the block, but it also confirms that Flickr.com itself is not censored but any other content within. How come? The idea is that the user user is left with the impression that it’s a technical glitch at Flickr.com compared to receiving a censorship warning or even a 404 when accessing the main page. Logging in Flickr is possible — verified though a Beijing based proxy manually — uploading is also possible, but not content can be seen.

Flickr = a Yahoo! media company with which the Chinese government has been keeping close ties in the past so that jailed journalists started filling lawsuits against Yahoo. Various bloggers speculated that China banned the entire site due to the leak of protestor’s photos on it, and taking into consideration China’s ongoing censorship of mobile communications such as SMS messages which I covered in a previous post, you may notice that the first image of the received sms for the time and place of the protest is censored by the photographer herself, especially the time of receivement. The protest is also on YouTube, so would YouTube be logically next to get blocked? I doubt so as basically, the protest will position itself as an even more high priority issue for the Chinese government. The censorship trade-off, should you censor it and add more exclusiveness to it, or ignore and act like it’s nothing serious? Undermine censorship by spreading the censored item further.

Even more interesting is the fact that couple of months ago, Google’s shareholders were about to wage a proxy battle in order for them to convince top management in the long-term effects of censorship. Google convinced them that the revenues streaming from China with its near the top Internet population are more important and so they agreed. Obviously, Yahoo’s shareholders are too, not keen of the fact that their investments are driving the oppression of Chinese citizens, and have recently proposed a similar resolution :

Amnesty International has today (11 June) expressed its support for two shareholder resolutions up for vote at tomorrow’s Yahoo! annual meeting in California, one calling on the company to oppose internet repression in countries such as China, and one requesting the creation of a corporate Board Committee on Human Rights.

New media companies are helpless and obliged under Chinese law to censor if they don’t want to lose the option to do business in (Soviet) China, therefore a nation-2-nation actions must be taken especially from the world’s major evalgelists of a free society and democracy. The rest is a twisted reality – a Tiananmen Square image search outside China, and a Tiananmen Square image search in China, everything’s “in order”.

Author: Dancho Danchev

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