Most of us are aware by now of the effect technology is having on the modern totalitarian government’s hold on the information their people see and hear. The recent heavy use of Twitter in Iran is one example of how hard it now is for any government to keep all communication at bay. Despite attempts at blocking and jamming internet traffic, many images and videos are still getting through to the rest of the world, and perhaps more importantly, to the very people involved and witnessing the protests.
The Great Firewall of China (Golden Shield Project) has long been a heavy handed deterrent for pornography, certain news agencies, pro-democracy groups and the Dalai Lama to name a few. But some Chinese people are finding clever ways around the Firewall, via proxy servers, virtual private networks and onion routing. The latest attempt at complete control over what Chinese people can see and hear via the internet is the sudden edict from the CCP that all new computers either made in or shipped to China must come with filtering software which will block any internet sites deemed unworthy by the Chinese government. (link to translated official notice.) The filtering software known as “Green Dam Youth Escort” is supposed to be, according to the government spokespeople, only for protecting youth from pornography and other sites which have been designated as harmful to the Chinese people. But a great hue and cry came not only from the computer manufacturing industry, but also from (very careful) Chinese citizens themselves. One U.S. software company is even claiming software theft pertaining to some of the code and their running list of websites to filter. Some are convinced there will be a security risk and that the software doesn’t work very well anyway. Lately, even the U.S State Department has joined the fray by condemning the action and meeting with Chinese officials to discuss the mandate. (All in all Apple stands to become quite popular in China since the software currently only runs in Windows.) Most are reading between the lines and guessing that this software is an initial stage in trying to gain continuing control over anything the CCP wants blocked from view.
With these recent events in China and Iran, it seems technology is reaching a level where totalitarian governments can no longer effectively control what their people see and hear. I’m sure the events in Iran were a bit of a surprise for those in control. Though still a cat and mouse game in many ways, the continued transmission of opinions, culture, martyrdom, and a greater sense of togetherness will increasingly affect totalitarian governments in ways they never predicted.
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