Suing Google, and Other Ways to Fight Internet Censorship

Howard French reports in the New York Times on the growing and creative forms of resistance by Internet users to censorship:

For a vast majority of Internet users, censorship still does not appear to be much of a factor. The most popular Web applications here are games and messaging services, and the most visited Internet sites focus on everyday subjects like entertainment news and sports. Many, in fact, seem only vaguely aware that China’s Internet universe is carefully pruned, and even among those who know, a majority hardly seems to care.

But growing numbers of others are becoming increasingly resentful of restrictions on a wide range of Web sites, including Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia, MySpace (sometimes), Blogspot and many other sites that the public sees as sources of harmless diversion or information. The mounting resentment has inspired a wave of increasingly determined social resistance of a kind that is uncommon in China.

This resistance is taking many forms, from lawsuits by Internet users against government-owned service providers, claiming that the blocking of sites is illegal, to a growing network of software writers who develop code aimed at overcoming the restrictions.

As an example of the kind of legal activism French writes about, see this Financial Times report about a former Nanjing University professor, Guo Quan, who is planning to sue Google for removing his name from local search results after he announced the creation of an independent political party. In an open letter announcing his lawsuit, Guo writes:

“To make money, Google has become a servile Pekinese dog wagging its tail at the heels of the Chinese Communists.”

February 4, 2008 11:42 AM
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