Chinese internet users work to sidestep censorship amid growing control
Internet users in China continue using creative ways to circumvent state controls over what they can legally share on the World Wide Web as China bans nongovernment sanctioned virtual private networks.
Most recently, information providers used private accounts on the messenger application WeChat to distribute video of a motorcade believed to transport North Korean leader Kim Jong Un through Beijing in late March 2018. Chinese authorities censor news on North Korea from its public internet channels, so information on the dictator’s visit was hard to obtain online. China also continues to remove North Korea from searches on public WeChat accounts.
“They have been deleting North Korea-related articles for the past few days. It’s been very hard for us to post on our public account,” one Chinese person who edits an online account about North Korea told Reuters in late March 2018.
Also in late March 2018, China’s propaganda ministry banned state media from reporting on news related to North Korea.
To get around the censors, internet users in China created nicknames like “the obese patient,” “the fatty on the train,” “the visitor from the northeast” and “the sibling next door” to share information on North Korea without detection, according to Reuters.
As of March 31, China enacted a ban on nonstate sanctioned virtual private networks (VPNs). Businesses and consumers say it remains unclear exactly how the even tighter internet controls will affect them. A VPN allows users to bypass China’s Great Firewall and access information stored outside the country and gain access to websites blocked by China, including news, social media and other data that Beijing wants to hide.
The ruling Communist Party has continuously tightened internet controls since Xi Jinping assumed power. Chinese officials claim it’s their right to govern the internet as they see fit, Reuters reported. They say it’s a matter of national security to crack down on hackers and terrorists.
Opponents of China’s internet controls argue the restrictions hurt China’s image and undermine its international cooperation and competiveness, according to Reuters.