Popular Internet portals in China were flooded with comments and prayers about the pope on the day his death was announced, but they all had disappeared two days later, reports AFP (April 4).
The companies running the website confirmed the censorship, enforced through the use of sophisticated technology, claiming that “religious issues are special” and potential problems related to them should be prevented.
Coincidentally, a report on Internet filtering in China in 2004-2005 was released on April 14. The result of a collaborative partnership between the University of Toronto, Harvard Law School, and the University of Cambridge, the issue appears to be a complex one, since China’s filtering regime is reported to be conducted at various control points, in contrast with the practice of other countries attempting to filter Internet content. The researchers tested e-mail filtering on sensitive topics, including religious persecution.
According to the results, filtering takes place, but is not consistent across different service providers. Religious persecution (which would include arrests of Tibetan monks or Falun Gong followers) is only one of the issues which Chinese Internet managers attempt to censure. According to the researchers, “China makes a systematic, comprehensive, and frequently successful effort to limit the ability of its citizens to access and to post online content the state considers sensitive.”
What is especially of concern to them is the increased sophistication of Chinese Internet filtering, considering that China will soon become the country with the most Internet users in the world. With the most extensive and sophisticated Internet control system in the world, the researchers think that China’s efforts might become a model for other countries attempting to filter Internet content – for political or religious reasons.
(OpenNet Initiative: http://www.opennetinitiative.net)
— By Jean-Francois Mayer