In many respects, we are lucky to live in Canada because of our unrestrictive government and our right to free speech. Although it may be controversial at times, I am glad they we can speak what is on our mind instead of worrying about censorship like a 21 year old student in China does. I feel fortunate because even though I may dread writing a blog about censorship, at least I have the opportunity to do so. If I was in other countries in the world, I would not have the opportunity to do so based on their regulations and what they classify as sensitive information too. In this final segment we will be looking at some of the most restrictive countries regarding censorship.
China : The Great Firewall
As we have learned so far, China is one of the most censored countries in the world ranked in the pervasive category by the Open Net Initiative. The Chinese government is particularly strict on political content searched on the internet. Political websites are considered sensitive information and they are implications if you are caught. As an example on April 1, 2012, 16 blogs were shutdown resulting in 6 arrests by Chinese police. Coming from a Canadian perspective , we would find this outrageous because our society are based on different values than China. I can not imagine a situation where you would be arrested in Canada over blog content unless is was racially derogatory or something along that nature. A second example of how strict the Chinese government is, was demonstrated in February 2012 when the government cut off access in parts of Tibet where protests were occurring. Again compared to Canada, we are able to demonstrate our opinions not only through the internet but through peaceful protests as well. Cutting out the internet is one way the Chinese government cuts down on these types of uprisings.
This youtube video puts China’s censorship practices into perspective quite well:
Even though the government has a strangle hold on the internet and its domestic users, they seem to have increasingly difficulty reigning in the mircobloggers of the country. China seems to do a nice job at phasing out western influences such as social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook but the microblogging site Weibo is where the Chinese people seem to be getting their social media fix. It is still censored but with over 300 million users, it is hard to prevent information exchanges happening about a wide range of topics including politics. In an interesting article by The Guardian, Michel Bonnin describes the role of Weibo in China by saying “Weibo plays a much more important role in China than Twitter does in the west, because of the heavy censorship imposed by the regime on the other media.Weibo is also censored and cannot be considered a free public sphere but it is still the place where exchange of information is the most developed in China, and even traditional and official media are forced to go through it to have a real impact on the public. it is also the only place where the receptors of information can react and influence the circulation of information.” As we can see, China is one of the most internet savy countries in the world and they know how to use it to their benefit even if we in Canada don’t view it as correct.
Internet usage in Iran has increased over the past couple of years making them one of the leaders in active internet users in the Middle East. With this being said, Iran continues to also be a leader in extensive internet filtration of websites they consider detrimental to their religion. Over the past couple of years, they have broadened their filtration criteria to include anything to do with human rights groups, women’s rights and political opposition. They re route all pages through proxy servers which enables the government to search for various key words and subsequently block anything them deem to be sensitive. Curbing anything to do with women’s rights has been a big priority of of the government in recent years and the Iranian government maintains a blacklist considered to be one of the biggest in the world. Online media outlets, human rights activists and bloggers are considered to be an online voice for the people making them a target of government resulting in arrests, imprisonment and even torture in some cases. In 2009, the blocking of Facebook became a major source of conflict as many believe supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were behind the decision. The opposition had been using the social media website for political campaigning and due to an uproar, the site was unblocked for a short time before being blocked yet again. We seem to be seeing a trend when it comes to heavily censored countries, that social media appears to be an enemy. As we can see in Canada, social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter allow for people to have a voice; letting their opinion count. In my opinion, I think that these countries are threatened by this sense of individualism, thinking that it may result in something more. Overall, Iran continues to be among the world leaders when it comes to censorship making it not a very desirable destination from the viewpoint of Canadians.
Overall, life in Canada compared to the rest of the world is very different in the sense that we don’t have to worry about a lot of the things, citizens of other countries do such as censorship. As we have found out in this two part series, countries such as China and Iran are among the two most pervasive in the world as sensitive topics are heavily censored. Strict punishments can come if these rules are broke as they are considered as a an attempt to over throw the regime. In Canada, we do not have to worry about these types of problems because of our civil rights. Personally, I am very thankful that these problems do no come up in my everyday life like they do for others around the world. One thing Ive learned is that we are very lucky to live in this beautiful country we call home.