Sunday, April 15, 2012

How Would You Like Random Blog Posts Deleted and a Knock on the Door for the Internet Police?

The other day, I was on a search engine, and I was amazed at how many dead web links there were to news stories about a certain very famous and popular politician in American politics. It seems as if someone went around and tried to sue all the news companies for posting information on our president which didn't show him in a good light, or something much more insidious - the search engine had purposely removed the links, or political operatives had paid various online companies to make sure they didn't show up anymore.

In case you didn't know it, there are companies you can pay who supposedly guarantee they can get a web link removed. These services exist so folks can manage their reputations online, especially if someone writes something that is basically slander, and destroys their reputation. Of course, if you are a famous politician in China, or you are the government there, you simply have your own censorship department which can go in and actually remove blog posts.

In the "Journal of the Internet" there was an interesting new research paper presented on the Chinese Government censorship wars going on right now. An article titled; "Censorship and Deletion Practices In Chinese Social Media" by Bamman, O'Connor, Smith of Carnegie Mellon - tells it all. In fact, the abstract stated;

"With Twitter and Facebook blocked in China, the stream of information from Chinese domestic social media provides a case study of social media behavior under the influence of active censorship. While much work has looked at efforts to prevent access to information in China (including IP blocking of foreign Web sites or search engine filtering), we present here the first large-scale analysis of political content censorship in social media, i.e., the active deletion of messages published by individuals."

Now then, if you're in China, I certainly wouldn't recommend that you post anything that would offend the government. But wouldn't it be a bummer if you posted something on your blog, and all the suddenly someone else had removed it? And maybe it wasn't even a person, maybe there was some sort of software that picked out keywords, or this case symbols, and it merely removes those combinations anytime they were found online.

Worse, if you really did mean to slander the government, or in this case perhaps tell the truth, you might have someone knock on your door, arrest you, and put you in prison. And don't think it hasn't happened before or that it won't happen again. And let's not just pick on China, as many other countries are doing the same thing. Did you know that Iran actually has a Minister of Internet Censorship? Yes, it is true, it is actually a branch of government; the Ministry of Internet Censorship. Please consider all this and think on it.

Lance Winslow has launched a new provocative series of eBooks on Internet Issues. Lance Winslow is a retired Founder of a Nationwide Franchise Chain, and now runs the Online Think Tank;

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