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Chinese Internet Censorship Machine Revealed

A report issued by Reporters Without Borders describes a bureaucracy that effectively clamps down on dissent, quashes articles, and uses online companies to distribute its own propaganda.

The Chinese government has instituted an elaborate system for Internet censorship that employs tens of thousands of censors and police responsible for maintaining control over the flow of information, a report released by international free press advocates showed.

Entitled "China: Journey To The Heart Of Internet Censorship," the report issued by Reporters Without Borders outlines the inner workings of a bureaucracy that effectively clamps down on dissent, quashes articles the communist government deems unsuitable for publication, and uses online companies to distribute its own propaganda.

The report, much of which is based on information provided by an unidentified Chinese technician who works for the government's Internet sector, was published Wednesday, five days before the start of the 17th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the nation's biggest political event in five years.

The Chinese have embraced the Internet in a big way, creating a market second only to the United States. The phenomenal market growth has attracted an army of U.S. technology and online companies, many of which have partnered with Chinese businesses in order to navigate the country's political system.

As of July 1, about 12.3% of China's population, or 162 million people, used the Internet, according to the China Internet Network Information Centre. In addition, there are at least 1.3 million Web sites, and 19% of Chinese Internet users have their own blogs.

Troika Of Control
To control the information flow over such a vast network, three leading government agencies have evolved over the last several years: the Internet Propaganda Administrative Bureau, the Bureau of Information and Public Opinion, and the Internet Bureau, the report said. In Beijing, where most of China's leading commercial Web sites are based, a powerful local agency has been established called the Beijing Internet Information Administrative Bureau.

In general, the Internet Propaganda Administrative Bureau issues licenses to commercial Web sites, which entitles them to provide news stories and reproduce reports disseminated by official media. The licenses, however, do not allow for independent news gathering and publishing.

The Bureau of Information and Public Opinion is responsible for organizing weekly meetings with commercial sites to discuss online public opinion and to pass along reports on the meetings to Communist Party officials. The organization also publishes periodicals on its monitoring of online news, and sends the publications to a variety of security and propaganda officials.

Finally, the Internet Bureau, created by the Communist Party in 2006, exercises ideological control. Employees of propaganda agencies take bureau-sanctioned courses on censorship, and executives and editors of online companies are required to take an annual historical field trip on the birth of communism in China and then publish an article on the trip. A total of 18 companies were invited on the trip; Yahoo is the only U.S. company listed. Yahoo's partner, Chinese marketplace Alibaba.com, runs the online company's operation in China.

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