China has continued to experience great difficulty in trying to regulate internet use in the country, which has continued to have its share of socioeconomic implications. The Chinese government has an economic environment which is so liberal and the internet comes in handy in playing a big role in the development strategy, particularly in the communication sector. The country is geared to use the internet to boost the country’s economic growth by installing advanced technological networks to linkup with other markets across the world.
The number of internet users has grown so fast since the strategy was embraced; moving to 210 million in 2007 from 0. 62 million ten years earlier (1997). Furthermore, the country has 1. 5 million websites and is currently the world’s number two in internet use (Zhao, p. 37). With this fact, it has become a national concern to control the use of internet technology due to the numerous challenges that accompany it, especially its effect on the political and social arena. The country is therefore focused on drawing up rules and regulations to control internet use to help counter the negative resultant effects.
This paper will look at the steps that the Chinese government is taking in trying to regulate the internet use, the outcome of the strategy and how the steps are perceived by its proponents and opponents alike. Internet Regulation in Contemporary China China put in place the first set of internet regulations in 1996 and continued to update the rules in the other subsequent years, the laws were amended to make tighter internet access and give the government more control over its use.
It was discovered that through the internet, scamming activities, rumor mongering, defamation, incitements and other cyber criminal activities were becoming more prevalent. The legislation of the laws was therefore meant to administer controls and minimize the effects of this misuse which was compromising economic growth. China has established twelve agencies charged with the duty of censuring the internet; some of these include the State Secrecy Bureau (SSB), Central Propaganda Department (CPD), State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), The Judiciary and GAPP (General Administration of Press and Publication).
The steps that the government has taken to regulate the internet use have managed to achieve a compromise point (though not very stable) between giving the nation economic boost and at the same time shield it from harmful influences on the society. There is however some tension in effecting these policies as it involves being more pragmatic and administer restrictions over the news media curtailing freedom of speech. (Zhao, p. 37). Too much censorship of the internet has its share of socioeconomic implications and little of it might present quite a challenge that may result to uncalled for strive.
Topping the agency’s list in regulating internet content are the SCIO (State Council Information Office) and MII (Ministry of Information Industry). These organizations are charged with the duty of restricting the very operations of domestic websites. Any indication of possible flouting of the regulations and legal requirements on the expected conduct of website owners is met with severe penalties ranging from imposition of fines up to total ban. Websites that target politicians and other historical figurers in China had earlier faced such bans, this also include those that would be classified as extreme satire.
Through the help of SARFT, the Chinese government has put in place regulations to monitor the content of online videos before they are authorized for release to the public” (Zhao, p. 38). This move is just a part of the wider campaign to control the internet content and it has gone a long way in sieving internet content. Positive effects that made internet advocates push for limited restrictions include and not limited to, public enlightenment with worldly information and the comical part because of its help to ease work pressure.
In 2004, SARFT Documented a regulation which held it that before any network developer commenced on the publication of his/her content, the firm must receive an official network license in audio and video form to allowing it send its programs to the internet (Zhao, p. 39). But despite the restrictions that the Chinese government has placed on the internet use, a unanimous internet control is far from being achieved. The internet culture presents a scenario that is very difficult to deal with due to its complex nature.
The number of internet users in China is so massive such that the government finds it untenable to monitor every information inflow and outflow across the net. Another problem comes in because of the lack of universal laws governing global internet use. Chinese internet regulatory rules can not be applied across the boarders and therefore some contents which are considered illegal in China might find their way into the country, yet China has no control over the move (Zhao, p. 40). This therefore calls for international jurisdiction to apply to internet information flow.
Absence of such regulations makes it practically impossible to make the local law effective, hence overrules every decision made on internet content control. Finally, the pace by which the world is gaining control and convergence of technology is so fast such that the Chinese government is finding it close to impossible to revise its regulations to keep pace with such developments. The government of China has redesigned the structure of the media in such a way that it acts just like an integral part of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party).
The CCP therefore uses the media to run their private affairs like organizing programs, giving directives and implementing their policies. The regulations also call for adherence of the party’s principles and codes of conduct and their press policies. The government has changed the operating principles of the media using the internet regulatory steps to such an extent that the media has now been hijacked and revolutionized into what can be seen as a government cheerleader and mouthpiece used in social modernization and as an instrument to spearhead economic development agendas (Zhao, p. 40).
The government is so much focused in making the entire media industry in the country managed according to the principles of the party leadership. The Chinese government is so focused in tightening the rules on the internet use and this move is seen as denying the press the freedom of expression and at the same time locking out the public from enjoying the right of information. These two are meant to be fundamental human rights in any democratic nation. But the Chinese government claims that giving the public unlimited freedom to express every opinion they have will result to political and social instability.
Since the internet has sources emanating from every corner of the world, it offers opportunities for individuals to express their feelings and opinions on every topic without fear of intimidation. The internet has literally no restrictions on the content that can be accessed by any interested party and owing to its complex nature, one can not stop but wander if the Chinese government will ever be successful in gagging the media and barring the flow of information across the internet.
It is hard to believe that the nation has even the faintest hope of someday being in full control of the content of information leaving and accessing the country. The proliferation and the hi-tech technology that the internet comes with, presents the public with an opportunity to share their opinion with the wider world across the boarders…the Chinese has an up-hill task if it thinks it will wholly and single handedly manipulate information flow. Chinese government policies makers have for that reason remained proactive due to the complex architectural landscape that the internet is creating” (Zhao, p. 41). The government security forces are turning information service providers into detectives, by directing them to filter out any information that they feel is undesirable before it leaks to the public. The government despite its efforts has achieved little, the Chinese community despite the sanctions is still getting access to cyber discussions and making their opinions be known world over without obtaining the government’s nod.
This shows how impossible it is to crackdown on online access. While proponents of free information flow are drumming support for the unlimited use of the internet, stating that every person should not be barred from seeking to know anything he or she desires; there are a lot of social and economic tensions that accompany liberalization and decentralization of the internet. That is why the government has relentlessly focused in controlling the internet and sifting its contents before it reaches the public.
Striking a balance between content control and being flexible is hard and imperative, there are continuous adjustments in the internet and the rules therefore need to be equally adjusted if the nation wants to keep pace with the dynamics of the internet. All having been said and done, many people hold a common feeling that the internet with its advantages and disadvantages should not be treated as if they are social and political defects which need to be fixed to stabilize a nation, but instead every nation; China included, should appreciate the benefits that openness bring.
With an open society individuals are able to express their appreciation, gratitude, un-satisfaction and displeasure to the state, all which are healthy for and recipe for innovation as well as economic development and political freedom. Conclusion From the facts presented in this paper, it has been established that there are conflicting interests on what should be done with the increasing case of internet use. While it is vital to harmonize globalization effect with the rest of the world, it is the hub of rumor mongering and a platform to spread hate messages that can in turn result to acrimonious activities.
It is therefore logical to find a compromise point between these two extremities and address the issue amicable. Stringent rules on the internet amounts to denial of the freedom of speech and right of information. It is true that control should be administered on the internet content, because of numerous cases of cyber crime that goes undetected online. Several sites that bring ill mannered individuals together with an intention of causing harm to others are present online.
Therefore, the Chinese government is just right by drawing some rules to guide this cause. The fault of the security forces and the government officials is in cases where they are trying to revolutionize media into their own mouthpiece. The media should be left to operate independently with only stated principles to follow. Since China is not able to counter the negative effects of the internet alone, all the other countries have to be brought on board so that universal rules can be drawn to regulate internet use worldwide.
If this is done, websites with offensive contents will never find place anywhere in any country as the rules will be applicable to each nation; sovereign or not. If the universal laws are adopted, China will never again lock out its citizens from enjoying internet services without limits and for that effect the burden to control internet content will not be left alone to China as a nation but will rest on every nation. China will therefore develop into a more open marketed nation and on human rights, it will be regard as more democratic as before.
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