IMDb Website No Longer Blocked In China: Will China's Internet Soon Be Censor-Free?

on March 12 2013 5:56 AM

China’s film buffs and netizens had cause to rejoice last week when they discovered that the popular IMDb, or Internet Movie Database, was no longer blocked by the nation’s infamous censors.

The most recent victory for Internet freedom in China came three years after the website was banned. Though never confirmed by officials, it is believed that both the Chinese and English versions of the site were blocked after it showed a preview of a documentary about the Free Tibet movement, "When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun."

The ban on the movie-information site in 2010 annoyed many Chinese, especially since it seemed to be based on that one incident.

Many of China’s Web users are hopeful that this is a sign of less Internet censorship, and more freedom with content, even if it conflicts with the government's vision of a "harmonious" China.  

Many people took to Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, to express their gratitude.

“Thank you, China’s new leaders, this is wonderful,” one blogger was quoted by the South China Morning Post, noting the timing of the move, in the week China’s top leaders gathered in Beijing for the National People's Congress meeting.

“What’s next? Facebook or Twitter?” another blogger wondered hopefully.

Unfortunately, for many China watchers and realists, this may not actually be a sign of relaxing censorship. The Shanghaiist, a China-based news-blog, breaks down why people should not get their hopes up.

“After three years of unresolved bar arguments, people in China can finally learn what other movies the third male lead in 'The Shawshank Redemption' has been in,” writer Yining Su posted.

The obvious point is that the IMDb contains innocuous information that is unlikely to provoke social unrest, which is why it is no longer blocked. Unfortunately for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube fans, the regime still sees a threat from those unregulated social media. The New York Times and Bloomberg websites have been blocked on mainland China as well after publishing a story on the hidden wealth of outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao.

"Don't have any expectations for the censors," another, more realistic individual wrote. "Unblocking a movie site means nothing."

“Is China really going to change?” asked another blogger.

To which The Shanghaiist responds, “Perhaps! Perhaps… this is a sign that China is changing and soon people will all be free to access Twitter! And Facebook! And eat safe food and breathe clean air and elect their leaders!”

“Or maybe the site will be blocked again the next time a documentary about Tibet is prominently featured on the main page,” Su said, with a scathing dose of reality.

More News from IBT MEDIA