At the time the Internet in most of these countries was a relatively open and unconstrained space for free expression, but the countries also typically featured a repressive environment for traditional media and had recently considered or introduced legislation that would negatively affect Internet freedom. A large portion of content in several categories is blocked.
Rui Hou 21 November The industrialization of Internet control inevitably means that the budding expression of dissent in China is being prematurely transformed into controllable information flows.
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The openMovements series invites leading social scientists to share their research results and perspectives on contemporary social struggles.
Internet surveillance software screen. Over the past decade, the influence of the Internet in China has rapidly expanded. However, another number also deserves our attention: The political impact of the Internet is a hot topic in social sciences. American scholar Larry Dimond considers the Internet a liberation technology because it enables citizens to express opinions, mobilize protests, and expand the horizons of freedom.
In the past decade, such famous protests as the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement have shown that Internet platforms such as Twitter or Facebook play a critical role in spreading information and fueling public emotions, both of which are indispensable for successful mobilization.
A similar phenomenon also happens in China. Sociologist Yang Guobing observed that, since the mids, the Internet has revolutionized popular expression, enabling Chinese netizens to organize, protest, and influence public opinion in unprecedented ways.
For example, Chinese workers today know how to use Internet to record and share their strike experiences, and ordinary citizens now rely on microblogs to expose the misconduct of local officials.
State resilience Although the expansion of the Internet has empowered Chinese citizens with more channels for public mobilization and political participation, no Internet-driven protest has substantially destabilized the regime.
There is a consensus that China is still one of the most resilient authoritarian regimes in the digital era. How does the Chinese party-state maintain its stability and address the challenge of new technologies?
It is well-known that China has built The Great Firewall to censor online information. The party-state not only sets up official agencies to monitor online information but also uses legal means to require Internet content providers to build their own self-censorship mechanism s.
Moreover, recent research also shows that Chinese governments fabricate social media posts for positive propaganda and opinion manipulation.
It is evident that the Chinese government, facing the challenge of Internet, is not a passive defender as it is actively incorporating new technologies into its repression repertoire. That is why we hear so much of the pessimistic view that argues that the Internet is a technology of repression rather than of liberation.
But how did this transformation happen? How did the new technology become a weapon for autocrats? My work shows that it is through the market that the state integrates new digital technologies, such as big data and new media, into the basic configuration of Internet repression.
By interviewing frontline officials and visiting monitoring agencies in China, I have found that there exists a lively market where for-profit organizations are selling various data products and related services to help governments monitor online information and guide Internet discussion.
According to the historical record posted on the Chinese government procurement platform, there have been more than pieces of bidding information and contract briefings referring to Internet-control business. The data in the Chinese enterprise credit system shows that more than companies provide the services of Internet surveillance or own the copyrights for Internet surveillance software.
The actual number of control-service providers could be even larger:The government cites its citizens' access to internet services are limited due to high costs and the American embargo, but there are reports concerning the will of the government to control access to uncensored information both from and to the outer world.
As the year drew to a close, the Syrian government shut down the Internet in order to control information exchanges among rebels seeking to overthrow the dictatorship of Bashir al-Assad as well as to limit the amount of information the international community could access about events within the .
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His simple statement acts as a dog whistle to regulators, telling them to sweep everything about the Internet under the government-controlled net neutrality umbrella— technical operations.
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