Freedom of information in China has been – and will for some time remain – a contentious issue for us out here in the west, but most of us tend to agree that the situation is dire, with internet in the country being heavily monitored and censored by the government. What’s less often suggested is that there are actually promising signs that people are finding ways to freely communicate with each other beneath Beijing’s radar.
In a recent TED speech, prominent Chinese blogger Michael Anti has been talking about ways in which Chinese ‘netizens’ have been finding alternative ways to communicate. While Twitter, Facebook and Google are all banned, this has allowed for services such as Weibo and Baidu to come to prominence, which are currently used by around 300 million people.
Anti argued that the nature of the Chinese language means that it is easer to conceal words and forms of communication in ways that they can’t be detected by the censoring authorities. For instance, who would’ve thought that the opposition between the free-speaking netizens of China and the government is described on the country’s net as that between a Grass-Mud Horse and a River Crab?
He added that the lack of access that local authorities have to internet data (which is all kept in Beijing) makes the system more transparent, with only one set of rules that netizens must adapt to, rather than many.
Check out the full speech below to see another side to the debate over Chinese internet censorship.