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Chinese Internet Censorship

August 26, 2014

A study tests the limits of China’s internet freedoms.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

The Chinese government’s online policy. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

How do governments prevent the Internet from challenging their power? In the journal Science, Harvard researcher Gary King describes work in which he and his colleagues created social networking sites in China, posted a huge variety of messages, and then analyzed how the government there censored them.

GARY KING (Harvard University):

And we found that the Chinese government has no problem with criticism; you can say the most vile things about the leaders and their policies.

Hirshon:

On the other hand, if you post messages about organizing a protest or rally, they’re taken down immediately.

KING:

In fact, if you say that the leaders of this town are doing such a great job, what we should go do is have a rally in their favor, that will also be censored.

Hirshon:

In short, criticism is tolerated, but messages to organize crowds of any sort are quashed as soon as they’re detected. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

www.sciencemag.org content suppl 2014 08 20 345.6199.1251722.DC1 King.SM.pdf

An example of a censored social networking site, English translation in red. (Excerpted from King, et al., Reverse-engineering censorship in China: Randomized experimentation and participant observation, Science 22 August 2014)