China, 1989

Picture of man in front of tank Thousands of Chinese students and others marched in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in support of the pro-democracy movement. Students were encouraged to continue marching when they learned news of their actions was seeping through the cracks of the Great Wall of China. As a result, people all over the world took notice of the students' efforts.

The students knew they were being noticed because of a group of college students in America faxing articles of the march from newspapers like The New York Times and the Washington Post. The Chinese students continued in the hopes that, if needed, democratic countries like the United States would help militarily.(Hachten, pp. 70-71)

Unfortunately, we didn't. Vivid picture of after the massacre


Why some fear the Internet:

A writer at Time magazine argues that the Internet is where people from anywhere can express any thought. "There is in these new media a foreshadowing of the intellectual and economic liberty that might undo all the authoritarian powers on earth."(Barlow, p. 76)

Nicholas Negroponte, head of the Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, agrees also that "'the Internet is a decentralist medium ... There is no head-end, hierarchy, or point of control.'"(Fluendy, p. 71) The Internet, therefore, should be looked at, not as mere technology, but as another form of media. Seeing the capabilities people have to spread information on the Internet, it is important to notice some countries that are speaking out against the Internet.

China and other Asian countries

In a The New York Times article Siobhan Dowd, program director of the Freedom to Write committee of PEN said, "'As more and more people have access to the Internet, it will be practically impossible for governments to ban something.'"(Lewis, p. E18)

An example of this inability to censor is the work of Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng. Jingsheng was released from prison in 1997 after 27 years. He was arrested for spreading his revolutionary book, Searching for the Truth. He has been released on the condition that he leave China and come to the United States.

In his book, Jingsheng has called for democracy in China, pointing out that communism is a failure and that true democracy is the only hope for the Chinese people. Back in 1979, he had only six months of freedom, and used it to continue his call for democracy in China. He was then re-imprisoned, only with harsher treatment.

Many human-rights organizations, like PEN, use electronic mail to send messages to people all over the world. Using electronic mail is often more effective than using a website because some countries like Vietnam have not allowed the full Internet to its citizens but only electronic mail.

Another reason the Internet is difficult to censor is because the information travels in "packets" of data that are scattered and reassembled at the receiving computer. This makes it much more difficult to intercept the information.(Lewis, p. E18)

These Asian countries see the threat and the difficulty before them in censoring the Internet. "But many reject the notion that modernity encompasses the sort of political pluralism seen in the West."(Asia and the Internet, p. 42)

Many Asian governments seek to control the Internet by limiting the number of service providers; but, citizens can register with a provider overseas and access the newsgroups through a direct dial phone call. Governments can prevent providers from allowing certain groups to post information on the Web, but these groups, too, can post through overseas providers. Governments cannot control the information coming from Websites overseas short of cutting off access to the entire Web. It seems that now there is no way to completely censor the Internet.

Filter software like "Net Nanny" or "Surf Watch" are becoming a possibility for government censorship because they can work as a proxy for sites that have been previously reviewed and determined permissible. However, citizens can simply not activate the software and have access to the whole Internet.

In China, the government issued regulations to steer the flow of electronic information through officially controlled ports that can be monitored. This was done in February of 1996, but China has not been any more successful with its censoring. In Singapore, the government is taking a beginners look at censoring by controlling all international telephone traffic by Singapore's Telecom, the government-owned communications provider.(Faison, p.E2)

China, Singapore and other Asian governments say they want to censor the Internet not to stop Western ideas from coming in, but to stop "undesirable" material. But undesirable material is seen in those countries as pornography and any political criticism.(Campbell, p.60)

These governments fear pornography which some consider a disease from the West, racist and extreme political material which could destabilize their ethnic dynamic, and "of course there's news about their countries that has not been passed through local censors."(Fluendy, p.72)