The rate at which the Internet has grown globally in recent years is worrying. The Internet of today has developed into a potent global media, breaking down national barriers and incorporating all the features of conventional communication media. (Alex Zixiang, 1999) China’s Internet censorship laws have long been a source of debate and investigation. China’s Internet regulatory policies differ from those of most nations since it has one of the largest economies and is a technical superpower. China’s Internet, in contrast to the nature of the Internet, which is described as an “autonomous organism that is not controlled by anyone and requires no supervision,” is a deliberately and tightly organized and supervised enterprise. (Kahin & Keller, 1997) All traffic within China flows through the gateway, which includes “firewalls, proxy servers”, filtering software, and other surveillance techniques because the government-owned telecom corporations have a monopoly on the country’s telecommunications activities. (Zixiang (Alex), 1999) The purpose of this article is to examine how China’s Internet regulation rules have affected both the nation and its citizens. The current state of China’s Internet is also studied using Baidu as a case study.
Internet Regulation in China
With barely 1,600 users in 1994 and only a few academic networks in the late 1980s, China’s Internet saw an amazing annual growth rate until surpassing 6000000 users in 2000. (Zixiang (Alex), 1999) With a penetration rate of 38.3%, China has more Internet users than any other nation today. (Anderson, 2012)
Internet users in China. Sources: CNNIC, ChinaNET, ChinaGBN, CERNET, CSTNet
Three generations of regulatory frameworks can be distinguished in China’s Internet governance. It reflected a disjointed structure before to 1994, one that was governed by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. The steering committee’s negotiations and collaboration with other governmental organizations in charge of China’s communications industry began in the years following 1994. After 1998, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) and the Ministry of Electronic Industry (MEI) were combined to become the Ministry of Information Industry (MII), and China’s Internet proceeded towards integrated supervision. (Zixiang (Alex), 1999) A foundation for China’s Internet supply and oversight was established in 1996 with the release of the “China Public Computer International Network Management Measures” by the Chinese government. These laws are designed to preserve social order and stop the spread of “harmful” information. (Miao, Zhu, & Chen, 2018) As the Internet has developed quickly over the years, the government has regularly updated and enhanced a number of legislations to address emerging issues like cybercrime, online pornography, and incorrect information.
The Chinese government established the Great Firewall, a sophisticated internet filtering system, at the beginning of the 2000s. Blocking or blocking websites like Google, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and others to prevent users from accessing them is one of the more well-known examples. The Chinese government has the power to remove “violating” content from the Internet and penalize Chinese creators. The Great Firewall was created because China is unable to control material hosted outside of its borders. Governments can impose access restrictions on websites, search engine results, and social media platforms that are deemed politically sensitive or dangerous to national security thanks to firewall technology. (Anderson, 2012) The “firewall” effectively prevents the influx of diverse viewpoints and preserves social order, but it has also drawn criticism from around the world from those worried about the right to free speech and access to information. (Anderson, 2012) JR Smith, an NBA player, experienced the same thing when he arrived in China and reported on social media that he was unable to access Skype or Twitter.
Impact of Internet Regulation
Protecting national security is one benefit of China’s stringent online regulations. Strict government regulations on online behaviour aid in thwarting foreign cyberthreats and attacks. In (Liang & Lu, 2010) China can secure its sensitive data and important infrastructure from potential attacks by keeping an eye on Internet traffic and installing firewalls. This is especially crucial in the current digital era, where cyber espionage and cyberwarfare are becoming more common. Governments can make sure that the public is not easily exposed to “harmful” content by managing and monitoring sensitive topics including politics, human rights, and social issues. Being a nation with a sizable population, In order to sustain social stability, China’s citizens must unite around a single set of priorities and a single voice. Stop rumours and misleading information from spreading since they may cause social turmoil.
On the other side, the government suppresses speech that is harmful to them and spreads stuff that is helpful to them. This is a technique for influencing public opinion. (Lemley, 2021) Lemley said: The genius of the internet is that because it is global and decentralized, there is more communication of information from more sources.(Lemley, 2021) Undoubtedly, the fragmentation of the Internet brought on by government censorship laws and firewalls works against its most valuable aspect. It restricts people’s freedom of speech, and access to a wealth of global knowledge, and creativity, and raises people’s awareness of significant social and political issues.
The current situation of China’s Internet reflected by Baidu
In China, Baidu is the most widely used search engine. The phenomenon highlighted by Baidu is representative of the Internet landscape in China. When someone searches on Baidu, they virtually always get results from other sections of the site, such as Baidu Knows, Baidu Education, Baidu Library, etc. Extremely high weight is placed on these self-media platforms, and all searches are directed to the Baidu website rather than to other websites on the Internet. (Fang, 2019) Searching for content from Douyin and Taobao is not accessible in Baidu, and neither is navigating to the search results of other search engines with comparable positioning, including Toutiao. In an effort to establish a monopoly, large Internet companies boycotted and restricted the products of rivals. (Fang, 2019) The Great Firewall not only blocks access to websites outside of China, but it also fragments the domestic Internet, interrupts information flow, and essentially ignores the actions of huge corporations. Because the majority of the information is owned by large corporations, this setup does make information control easier. But for the general public, business strategies like blocking and monopoly will only result in a network environment that is ever more closed. The “corporate social responsibility” that China’s Internet corporations emphasize appears to only involve the duty to practice political censorship, not Including others, according to Kechen Fang. People can only accept targeted information feeding from Internet juggernauts since they are unable to access the world beyond the wall, gradually creating an information cocoon. Being isolated within the walls of information is a regrettable outcome.
In conclusion, China’s Internet regulation regulations have a variety of effects on the country and its people. On the one hand, these actions have considerably supported moral ideals, protected national security, and upheld social stability. They lessen cybercrime and halt the spread of harmful content while promoting the growth of an online community. However, these regulations have come under heavy fire for restricting people’s right to free speech and hampering information access. The Great Firewall and other limitations highlight the extent of Internet control in China. On the other hand, it has not demonstrated its regulatory capabilities in areas other than content review. These laws have varying degrees of positive and bad effects on the country and its people. Finding a balance between regulation and individual rights is vital for advancing the digital economy towards greater prosperity.
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Fang, K. (2019, January 25). 百度现象折射中国互联网：牢笼又是丛林. BBC News 中文. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/zhongwen/simp/chinese-news-46997294
Kahin, B., & Keller, J. (1997). Coordinating the Internet. Boston: MIT Press.
Lemley, Mark. A. (2012, March). THE SPLINTERNET. – Document – Gale General OneFile. Retrieved October 7, 2023, from go.gale.com website: https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A666103930/ITOF?u=usyd&sid=bookmark-ITOF&xid=a03ba93d
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