Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Great Firewall of China

I am sickened by the growth of censorship, especially on a medium that we all used to think of as representing freedom incarnate. The internet used to be a haven for freedom, where no matter what government tried to restrict access there were at least a hundred ways to get around the restrictions. Now, the power of control is even greater on the internet than it is in the real world.

In the real world, you can't stop me from taping a radio show. In the real world, you don't time your customers in a bookstore and let them know that their time is up and now it's time to pay for the book. In the real world, I can listen or watch anything I want, whether I purchased it or not. Now, in the virtual world, the line between fair use and copyright has become blurred.

Copyright does not exist to restrict freedom in expression or freedom of access. It is meant to restrict one company selling another individual's work as its own. Copyright exists to help maintain the balance between creator and seller, not creator and critic or creator and fan.

In China, they have erected the "Great Firewall of China" to block potential damning political news and other internet resources from its people. Even though the BBC World News reports how easy it is to get around these restrictions (read full article here), there is the handwriting on the wall. The WWW is not free anymore. Slowly, the various censorship groups that ignored us technophiles are waking up, realizing the power behind all of those wires that connect the world together. This point was summarized by Julien Pain, head of the internet freedom desk at Reporters Without Borders:

"Surveillance is much easier in cyberspace than in the real world."


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