CDF Conference: Jie Cheng, “Regulation and Control of the Internet”

Jie Cheng, Tsing Hua Law School, China
How to make the Chinese regulations on the Internet more enforcable? She begins with the assumption that these regulations are good for the public. A free society is a threat to communist China, and so its desireable for the government and some part of the public to want censorship. If the Internet is compared to the print press than the restrictions are much the same, but Internet regulations are widely attacked.

The basic problem is that there’s no clear line between free speech and conduct, so the government errs on the protective side. One man was convicted of subversion for providing 5,000 email addresses to a foreign democratic magazine.

She said that China needs to focus on why this case was harmful. It’s not clear what the government’s standards are, but at this point, their efforts could be justified. People are quick to connect these censors to the communist repressive agenda but that may not be the case.

QUESTION: How sophisticated are the resources devoted to policing the Internet?

Bill Xia: China has the best technology filtering in the world.
Cindy Cohn: Pretty astounding how much money ($20 billion recently) China is spending on telecommunications. Have committed tremendous resources to surveillance in Internet cafes.

QUESTION: What is the approach of the premiere universities in China to this type of censorship? Is there pressure to not filter?

Jie Cheng: The enforcement of these regulations is difficult because most students use proxies to circumvent filters.

QUESTION: There’s a conversation theory that says that the only way the Internet could co-exist with the current Chinese leadership is in its current form. What do you think about this?

Jie Cheng: The conversation theory reflects the open market theory. The best ideas will succeed in the market, so in China, even if all of the sites are not accessible, the best sites that are accessible will be found.

QUESTION: No blocking is 100% effective. Does the Chinese government recognize this?

Jie Cheng: There’s competition between technology and governance. Creative persons will always find access. Filters are either under-inclusive or over-inclusive. Controlling content is very difficult.

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