China Intervenes, Leaves Users without YouTube Access
Article by George Norman
On 25 Mar 2009
It seems that some videos displaying soldiers attacking Tibetan nationals, which made their way to the popular, Google owned video sharing site have caused quite a stir amongst Chinese authorities and consequently access to the aforementioned web page has been blocked. The footage in question was allegedly shot last year in March, was posted by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, and showed Tibetan protestants being beaten by Chinese forces. The same footage was posted on Blip.tv, and the result was the same as in the YouTube case – Blip.tv was also blocked by the Chinese authorities.

YouTube and Google have confirmed the incident. A spokesperson from YouTube has announced that the block lasted for more than 24 hours, but the Chinese Government has contacted YouTube and showed its willingness to help restore the service. The same person expressed Google’s interest in why the Chinese authorities did not resort to blocking only video content they found “disruptive” or “against Government policy,” as opposed to blocking the whole web page – if that is indeed the reason Youtube was blocked, as the spokesperson did not confirm the Tibetan footage was indeed the cause of the blackout.

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With this occasion the Chinese government made sure to announce the world that it does not fear the internet. Qin Gang, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson: “Many people have a false impression that the Chinese government fears the Internet. In fact it is just the opposite. China's Internet is open enough, but also needs to be regulated by law in order to prevent the spread of harmful information and for national security.”

So, what the spokesperson said there is that the free spreading of information and the right to express yourself is OK, as long as it is monitored so that you do not say the wrong stuff – there is a word for that already, it is “censorship”. And it is not like China is the most liberal of countries; this is not the first time that they block access to YouTube, it is just the most recent. As a matter of fact, any online blog, video footage, or other online content that disagrees with the Chinese Government is taken down from the web or blocked access to. Here is a short list of sites that are blocked or were at some time blocked by the Chinese authorities: YouTube, Google, Google News, Wikipedia, Flickr, iTunes, Amazon, GoDaddy, The New York Times, and blogger Robert Scoble.

“The truth is, the Chinese standards for online content are about as clear as an average motherboard's manual. The government's guidelines for online news state that stories should be "healthy" and "in the public interest." Video and audio restrictions, meanwhile, require multimedia material to avoid damaging "China's culture or traditions." Calling the Communist party's tactics into question? Count your Web site out,” says PC World’s JR Raphael.



Tags: Google, YouTube, China
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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