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China lives without Google, Facebook or Twitter

By Rachael Ramchand

What appears to be normal social media and internet platforms for people living in the U.S. is not the same for the citizens of China. Internet usage is highly censored in this country for the purpose of limiting its citizens’ exposure to specific content that the government deems unfit to be on their internet.

The Chinese government believes an unchecked internet is a threat, as it has a disruptive power that needs to be controlled. In 2012, before China implemented these restrictions, they found that citizens were openly exchanging views and news on the internet, including negative comments made about the Communist party. They found that an uncontrolled internet, has the potential to undermine the government’s legitimacy.

Nevertheless, people deserve their freedom – freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, and so on. These are all born rights, that each individual should be able to have.  Of course, there are pros and cons of the internet, but there are also pros and cons to most things we use in our life. The Chinese government believes that the internet’s cons outweigh the pros. On the other hand,  the U.S., being a free market economy, a country that focuses on its citizens’ freedom and a provider of the many trending internet products, places the importance of a limitless internet and its global platforms very highly.  

Many of the popular social media platforms and internet search engines that are used in the U.S. are banned in China. Internet websites such as Google, Youtube, Snapchat, Twitter, Tinder, Facebook, among others are included in this ban. Instagram and Whatsapp have been the latest blocked platforms. According to a New York Times article titled Internet Censorship in China, written by Paul Mozur and Karen Weise, activists have been detained and/or questioned by Chinese authorities due to evading China’s censors using special software to post on Twitter.

Naturally, there will always be deliberate loopholes in the system. In the article, “China’s Scary Lesson to the World: Censoring the Internet Works,” Simon Denyer from the Washington Post explains that virtual private networks are used to access the Internet through a different country. “The VPNs enable users to encrypt traffic, circumvent censorship and experience the Internet exactly as if they were in the United States.” The Chinese government allows only a certain amount of porousness in the firewall, however they are still able to exert control when needed to.

China’s move on keeping the internet in check is understandable, as there are a number of questionable and controversial things seen on it. However, banning social media blogging websites such as  Twitter, a medium that is used by millions of people around the world to express themselves and their views on different events, may be a bit too much.

A government should be for the people. Limiting their input on subjects that involve their well-being may only make them feel stifled and suppressed, which could lead their quality of life to decline.  The beauty of being human is that we are all unique, born with our own thoughts and views. Some may agree with each other, while others may not. Appropriately expressing their views, opinions and perspectives on matters through these globally used internet platforms gives them a voice to show their dissent.

Thankfully though, not all hope is lost for the citizens of China. The country does have their own social media applications and websites that they use to communicate with others (however they are highly monitored). These include:  Sina Weibo (the Twitter of China), Tencent QQ (a popular Instant Messaging app), Toudou Youku(the Youtube of China), Momo(the Tinder of China).

Rachael Ramchand can be reached at rachael.ramchand@spartans.ut.edu

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