Global Times: Publish and Be Deleted

Global Times’ English edition has a lengthy and candid report on Internet regulations and self-censorship by Douban and other websites:

Self-censorship is the rule of survival that prevents popular websites from being shut down, Zoe Wang, a veteran website developer told the Global Times.

“I can understand an author being outraged when his post gets deleted, but it’s even harder to operate a website as I have to suffer the humiliation of supervisory organs and handle all the criticisms coming from users,” she said.

“How can you hope to pay your staff or maintain your users’ statistics if the website is shut down all because of one sensitive post?”

“You can never relax,” said the small website operator.

“You’re always keeping your phone switched on and waiting for that emergency call from the authorities requiring deletion of a post.”

What’s worse, she said, was the complete absence of clear-cut rules for deciding whether or not to delete an online post.

…There are 14 general laws and regulations governing illegal online behavior, all vague and lacking in detailed, practical provisions, according to Li Yonggang, a professor of Internet politics from Nan-jing University, in his newly published book Our Great Firewall: Expression and Governance in the Era of the Internet.

“As a result, it’s difficult to draw a line when operators and Web users censor, apart from the well-known restricted field of political issues,” he wrote.

There are more than 10 government organs entitled to supervise the Internet, Li said. This inevitably gives rise to conflicts, he believed.

Bans are also increasingly unpredictable, he said. Recipients receive no explanation and no comeback. Chinese mainland Web users tend to react with a pessimistic, alienated and impotent attitude.