People are highly dependent on the Internet for information, and information is constantly being exported and imported on the Internet. Although the Internet treats every user equally, everyone worldwide does not have equal rights to receive and input information. Governments and Internet giants apparently have more substantial rights to access information than the public, and they also have information restriction powers. Information is often restricted for the sole reason of ‘insecurity,’ which is often seen when it cannot be accessed. Governments and Internet companies often explain such information restrictions as protecting the information security of the public and an Internet environment safety.
This blog will analyze how Chinese governments and internet giants protect the public with information restrictions and the effectiveness and drawbacks of this method.
Youth Internet Safety
A significant amount of information is spread on the Internet, which is loaded with misinformation and false information. Fake or misleading information can easily be spread through social media, websites, and even seemingly reliable sources. The most vulnerable Internet user which is the youth. Young people lack the ability to recognize information and may inadvertently fall victim to false information, conspiracy theories, or biased information. This not only affects their understanding of the world but also has real-world implications when misinformation influences their decisions and behaviors. Information restriction protects young people from being educated in a manageable way without the influence of wrong information on the internet. It also reduces juvenile delinquency and reduces the educational burden on parents.
For example, misinformation has the potential to shape their values and ideas in an unfavorable manner and can even lead to long-term behavioral and psychological problems. For example, the media greatly influences the sexual behavior of heterosexual men and messages spread by the media, which leads men to objectify women (Behun & Owens, 2020). Filtered information can help shape values for adolescents and keep the thinking and behavior of young people consistent with the mainstream values of society. In addition, young people are unable to distinguish between true and reliable information and are more likely to contribute to the spread of misinformation.
National political power
Internet politics is presented differently in various regions, which is related to cultural contexts and political formations. In democracies, the public has the right to use the Internet freely, but control of information remains in the hands of the government. Unlike the freedom of speech in the West, China(mainland) is a country where information is strictly limited. Strict censorship of the Internet in China includes web filtering, search filtering, chat censorship and blog censorship (Yang & Liu, 2014). For example, firewalls are for web filtering with the aim of stabilizing the regime and society.
China has a long history of political control and censorship aimed at stabilizing the regime and preventing civil unrest. However, stabilizing the regime and society remains particularly important to the Chinese government at this time because of the repeated regime reversals and social uprisings of past history. This is reflected in the way the country manages news and public opinion. For example, some sensitive topics are banned from discussion, and media institutions are tightly regulated to control the information. This has led to a culture of popular self-censorship, with people wary of speaking out or expressing views that might be seen as controversial. As a result of robust regulation, it is difficult for people to discuss sensitive topics over the Internet, and the mood of society is quietened.
Local Internet Industry Competition
The Chinese government has restricted the entry of Internet giants from Western countries, thus spawning a plethora of local alternatives. Many popular social media and internet platforms have alternatives in China. The local internet giants are also boosting the economy and creating an enormous GDP contribution. For example, Baidu has replaced Google, Weibo has replaced Twitter, and video companies have replaced YouTube, Chinese Internet companies have gained a monopoly on the local market in different areas (Feng & Guo, 2012). Even developing overseas markets from China, such as the influence of Tiktok has intimidated the West country.
This has two benefits: fostering local companies and preventing leakage of local information. First, Western competitors are filtered out by Chinese governments, while local companies grow rapidly and their market capitalization soars due to China’s huge population. The Chinese Internet companies are also gradually taking over the international market. Second, local companies are directly regulated by the government, whereas overseas companies do not always cooperate with regulation. The large amount of citizen personal information being collected by overseas companies is risky for China, especially some information related to the country.
When the public has access to only highly restricted information, it can lead to a lack of complete perspective and thus create information barriers. Without a full understanding of an issue or situation, the public is unable to form an accurate and comprehensive view, which may lead to the start of the spread of erroneous thoughts among the public. For example, under the Chinese government’s strong suppression of information, the public did not know the truth and also lost their right to free speech. In restricted contexts, wrong decisions and opinions of people may have social impacts or even affect social stability.
Many people inside the wall can still read the filtered information through technical means by browsing foreign websites outside the wall to get more authentic and comprehensive information. The firewall loses its meaning and original purpose in this situation. However, the authenticity of the filtered information becomes more debatable within the wall.People going over the wall create resistance to violent restrictions, which is not conducive to social stability.
On the other hand, the Chinese government’s strict regulation of information is the most efficient and simple way for the government to preserve power and stabilize society. This approach has the benefit of being relatively straightforward and efficient, allowing the government to maintain power and ensure a stable environment for citizens. This is also because of China’s history of regime change and a large amount of population. The introduction of dissenting voices into a society can often lead to civil unrest. This is particularly true in large populations, where the management of such unrest can be more difficult. If left unchecked, the situation can quickly spiral out of control, leading to further instability and potentially catastrophic consequences.
In Conclusion, the benefits of strict control of information are obvious, especially for the education of young people to prevent them from being misled by wrong information. Such control also helps ensure that young people are exposed to reliable and accurate sources of information, enabling them to develop a better understanding of the world around them. Ultimately, it can help to ensure that they become more informed and responsible citizens. It is also convenient for the government to stabilize the regime and society including ensuring the continuity of policy. However, the violent suppression of information is not bought by the public. However, for some specific ethnic groups and social environments, strict control of information may turn out to be the most straightforward and most efficient tool.
Yang, Q., & Liu, Y. (2014). What’s on the other side of the Great Firewall? Chinese web users’ motivations for bypassing the internet censorship. Computers in Human Behavior, 37, 249–257. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.04.054
Feng, G. C., & Guo, S. Z. (2012). Tracing the route of China’s internet censorship: An empirical study. Telematics and Informatics, 30(4), 335–345. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tele.2012.09.002
Behun, R. Joseph., & Owens, E. W. (2020). Thoughts and values. In Youth and internet pornography: The impact and influence on adolescent development (pp. 31–45). essay, Routledge.
Su, A., & Shyong, F. (2019, June 3). The Chinese and non-Chinese internet are two worlds. here’s what it’s like to use both. Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-us-china-internet-split-20190603-story.html
Wang, Y. (2020, October 28). In China, the “great firewall” is changing a generation. Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/09/01/china-great-firewall-changing-generation
Molla, R. (2018, May 30). Mary Meeker: China now has nine of the world’s biggest internet companies – almost as many as the U.S. Vox. https://www.vox.com/2018/5/30/17385376/mary-meeker-kleiner-slides-code-conference-chinese-tech