Cold-blooded Internet censorship: Why is China afraid of Google+?

 
on June 30 2011 7:05 AM

China apparently lost no time denying its people access to yet another western social networking service. Hours after search giant Google unveiled ambitious social networking service Google+, the Chinese government got the service blocked in the country, according to media reports.

According to reports, Google+ was available to only an exclusively small number of people in China after the Communist regime pounced on the social networking service immediately after it was unveiled. China, which has banned Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Foursquare in the country, went one up on its enduring grudge match with global search giant Google by blocking Google+.

This was the quickest blockage I can remember ... The speed with which they moved to block Google+ was surprising, but I couldn't be less surprised to see it blocked, the Daily News quoted China Internet analyst Sage Brennan as saying.

However, Netizens were not surprised. Google+ possibly blocked in China.. how unsurprising, said a Twitter user.

LOL WHAT? That's too fast?! RT @KerLoon: ROFL - Google+ blocked in China already. Not even officially launched yet, way to go China!! another tweet read.

Another tweeter termed the development as stunningly efficient Internet censorship.

Looks like friendly old China are helping Google out with the oversubscription on Google+, another Twitter user added in a funny vein. With the launch of Google+, the search giant sought to redefine the future of search and rectify the alleged imperfections of the Facebook model of social networking.

An official blog post says the Facebook model of social networking is 'sloppy', 'scary' and 'insensitive', without naming Facebook, of course. Google says the way we connect with people has to be reworked drastically to accommodate myriad sensitivities, nuances and angles.

China has historically discouraged online forums with a political tinge and has been wary of all foreign social networking sites. The fears grew following the Arab spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Libya which were fanned by social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

In China's closed system of administration, free speech and unbridled circulation of ideas can easily cause trouble. The ruling Communist party has sensed the potential dangers of Internet freedom long back and crafted measures to prevent the Internet from escalating simmering discontent.

Google's troubles with the Chinese government go back in time. Last year, Google decided to pull its search engine from mainland China, instead of continuing under a Chinese censoring. This year, there were allegations that Chinese hackers had broken into Google's mail service, Gmail.

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ James Lewis, Chinese authorities are afraid of social networks. “They’re particularly afraid of American social networks. They think the U.S. government uses them to destabilize China,” Lewis told NY Daily News.

The Communist country employs strategies like a secret pro-government campaign, email chat surveillance, Internet police force and the 'great firewall' of China to muzzle dissent and freedom of expression.

In 2005, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported that China recruited armies of secret web commentators and put in place sophisticated new monitoring software to lead the war on free Internet. The regime also ordered bloggers and bulletin board operators to register with the government lest they be closed down.

China's Internet police force attempt to grab control over the Internet and thereby influence the fastest medium of communication was to augment the efforts of the 30,000-strong Internet police force. The forces had their hands full as they had to constantly keep watch over critical comments popping up in bulletin boards and online discussion forums and delete them within minutes, if not seconds.

On top of it all is China's formidable censorship machinery, known as the “Great Firewall of China.” China has always tried to monitor how the global Internet interacts with the 'Chinese Internet'. This is how global internet giant Google came in the cross hairs with the Chinese administration last year.

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