How China shut down the Internet



In 2000, President Bill Clinton gave a speech in which he said that the Chinese government’s efforts to control the Internet would be as successful as efforts to “nail Jello to the wall,” notes China Digital Times.

Sixteen years later, we have a better idea of just how successful those efforts have actually been. According to Adam Segal, director of the digital and cyberspace policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of a new book, “The Hacked World Order: How Nations Fight, Trade, Maneuver, and Manipulate in the Digital Age,” China and other authoritarian government have at least partially succeeded in gaining control of online speech. Steven Melendez at Fast Company reports:

“I think the assumption would be if we got the right technology in the right hands, old bureaucracy and powerful organizations couldn’t keep up,” Segal told Fast Company. “What we’ve found is they brought significant resources to the table and they were able to structure their Internet in ways that significantly restrict online freedom.”

China’s government, in particular, realized early on that the Internet was both vital to the country’s economic growth—and a threat to the stability of the Communist regime, he says.

“They always kind of looked at it as a double-edged sword,” says Segal, who is also CFR’s Maurice R. Greenberg senior fellow for China studies.

And they successfully took a three-pronged approach, implementing the technological filters collectively known as the Great Firewall, giving Internet providers and web hosts a powerful incentive to censor content by holding them liable for their users’ posts and by simply introducing uncertainty about what’s allowed online, leading everyday users to censor themselves, Segal argues. [Source]

RTWT CDT is a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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