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Internet Censorship In China Lifted In Shanghai Free-Trade Zone

Social media uncensored?

The new economic zone in Shanghai, launched on 29th September as China prepares to test its long-awaited economic reforms, is said to be about to relax some of its strict censorship laws allowing full internet freedom. This includes access to the previously banned social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, which are considered politically sensitive in the country. Does this move signal change to follow in the rest of the country too?

social media in China
Source: bbc.co.uk – sign reads "China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone"

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday 24th September that the ruling Communist Party had decided to lift the internet censorship rules in the pilot free trade zone, as this would be a fundamental step in trying to attract foreign investors to the zone to make them feel at home. Officials who were leading the project to create an economic zone feared that potential investors might doubt the seriousness of the project if they were not able to access websites such as Twitter or were not able to read The New York Times. The newspaper also said that authorities would consider bids from foreign telecoms firms for licenses to provide internet services in this free trade zone.

In 2003, China’s Ministry of Public Security began 'The Golden Shield Project', an attempt to control internet usage and prevent the sharing of information that could threaten national security, disclose state secrets or damage the government’s reputation. The so-called ‘The Great Firewall of China’ went on to block social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter from 2009 after riots in the western province of Xinjiang which authorities say were assisted by the social networking sites. Social networks are not the only thing to have been blocked by the Chinese government, access to other sites deemed politically problematic have also been controlled with around one million articles each day of 2010 being banned, and there were 41% fewer sites in total in 2010 than the previous year. For instance, The New York Times was banned after reporting that the family of the Premier Wen Jiabao had amassed a huge fortune.

social media in China

This small breakthrough of allowing uncensored internet usage in a controlled zone is a step forward for the country, but will this move be reflected elsewhere in China? If the Chinese were to lift their censorship restrictions on internet usage, it could represent an important new market for growth, and would help to achieve the plans of social media sites to connect the world. Facebook is currently the world’s largest online social network, with 1.15 billion users, but if the Chinese were able to access Facebook, this could increase even more. According to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) the country now has more than 591 million internet users and 460 million mobile web users. This shows that there is great potential for market growth in social media sites if they were able to be accessed by the Chinese population.

What do you think?

Does this small step towards uncensored use of internet signal the fall of ‘The Great Firewall of China’ or will it stay limited to this pilot free-trade zone?


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Internet Censorship In China Lifted In Shanghai Free-Trade Zone Reviewed by Anonymous on Tuesday, October 01, 2013 Rating: 5
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