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New Report: Most Chinese happy with Internet control

08 May, 2008
By Allison Orr

A new report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project has found that 80% of Chinese respondents think the Internet should be managed or controlled.  The data is from a series of surveys on Internet use in China from 2000 to 2007.  While it is often assumed that Chinese citizens would be unhappy about having their Internet access controlled, the response rate of 84% who believe it should be has varied little across the surveys. 

The results show that in many respects Chinese citizens have different opinions about the Internet than their Western counterparts.  Not only do they appear to be comfortable with their government controlling the information available via the Internet, they are also mistrustful of most Internet content, with only a third regarding online content as reliable.  A majority of respondents trusted information on government websites more than any other kind of online content and nearly all (93%) consider much of Internet content to be unsuitable for children.

The results for political content are particularly surprising, as the percentage who say that online content about "politics" should be controlled or managed increased from 8% in 2005 to 41% in 2007.

It should be noted that the surveys were not able to address some issues, as all public-opinion polling in China requires the survey or the surveyors to be approved by the government.  Additionally, the Chinese word used for "politics" in this survey, zhengzhi, can also include meanings of public morality and social values, so respondents may be including in this content area issues of fraud, blackmail and online abuses that have been widely publicized recently.

The results of this report will be good news to Chinese authorities, who are continuing in their efforts to censor content related to the demonstrations surrounding the Olympic torch relay.  Internet businesses have been issued a notice by China’s "Internet Inspection Sector" to reset the keywords used to block access to certain websites and quickly delete such information.  At the same time, according to a Guardian article, China’s propaganda department has "tolerated and even fuelled an outpouring of Internet postings and blogs against Western media".

For an explanation on how China's "Great Firewall" works, see this BBC report: China's battle to police the Web, or this USA Today article: Cracking the 'Great Firewall' of China's Web censorship.

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