New study shows startling amount of web censorship in China

As pundits, politicians and everyday U.S. citizens discuss the myriad possibilities broached by Senator Patrick Leahy’s (D-VT) yet to be adopted PROTECT IP bill and fear the worst, web censorship continues unabated in China. A new scientific report attached some staggering statistics to the Chinese government’s far-reaching efforts to block what it perceives as controversial or offensive material available for net denizens.

Last week BBC News reported on a study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences that revealed 1.3 million websites were shut down in China in 2010 alone – marking a 41% decrease in the total number of sites viewable for Chinese citizens. Liu Ruisheng, a researcher with CASS, boasted that the country’s web page views surged even as the number of sites available were cut nearly in half.

Many have shaken their heads at the governmental monitoring of web content, including Erik Schmidt, Google’s Executive Chairman. In a recent speech, Schmidt criticized the notion that governments should go after the DNS and confirmed that his company would fight back against any effort to do so: “[Killing DNS] seems like an appealing solution but it sets a very bad precedent because now another country will say ‘I don’t like free speech so I’ll whack off all those DNSs’ – that country would be China.”

Schmidt has also compared growing internet censorship to past (and current) attempts to censor television.

Of course, the country’s censorship is not only limited to the internet. Early last year, Apple caved to complaints from the Chinese government and blocked apps that featured the Dalai Lama and Rebiya Kadeer. In 2009, the country banned online video games that featured gangsters.

Complaints over China’s “Great Firewall” have even resulted in the creation of a sort of novelty site that tests URLs to see if they’re available in the country. Apparently, MyCE can be viewed by those residing in mainland China. YouTube, however, is blocked. Go figure. While the site doesn’t proclaim to be the be-all, end-all of internet censorship watchdogs, its very existence says a lot. Another site simply lists those unavailable in China, illustrating a noticeable overlap between the most popular blocked sites and those which offer social networking features, such as Facebook and Twitter.

The French government is currently in talks about its own anti-piracy policy which many fear could easily be manipulated as a tool for online censorship. (via TechDirt)