The Great Firewall: The Truth about Chinese Internet Censorship

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Censorship is the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable or a threat to security. Every country has its internet censorship system, but when compared to mainland China, other countries have much more lose restrictions when it comes to censorship. Chinese internet censorship works very systematically and is very strict when it comes to covering or restricting information posted online, with a history dating back to the second century AD. A huge business has been created from censorship that is dedicated to helping government officials protect their names and censors anything going against the Chinese government. China’s internet censorship system works through the government deciding on what kind of information should be censored or restricted, such as historical events like the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the on-going Hong Kong protests. The Chinese censorship system is a huge deal to ordinary Chinese citizens.

Chinese censorship first started back in 221 AD, more than 2,000 years ago. Back then, Emperor Shi Huangdi wanted to restrict people from questioning the power of the dynasty. Therefore, he ordered the “Burning of Book and Burial of Scholars”. In this event, ordered by the Emperor, any books related to opposing the choices made by the dynasty or having opinions that can question the dynasty will be burned, and scholars who wrote the books or had openly said different opinions on the dynasty were all buried alive. After this event, no one dared to oppose the Emperor. Centuries later, this event led to governments becoming more and more overpowered and harsh making them wanting more control over China and that is what created the start of the Chinese internet censorship technology in 2015. The technology used for the Chinese internet censorship system is called the “Great Canon” which observes and blocks technology from outside of China. This technology only works inside a certain boundary called the “Great Firewall”, any information beyond the “Great Firewall” is completely out of the Chinese government’s control. The “Great Canon” works by internet service providers in China injecting a Javascript code into Chinese citizens’ insecure (HTTP) requests. It causes traffic to sites out of the “Great Firewall” by slowing and overloading those sites. Any applications, websites and news. from outside of China are completely blocked, giving China an even easier way to censor information. This is done by creating their very own applications, websites and so on. Every internet service created inside of China has a code that scans through websites and/or languages and includes a government filter with the “Great Canon” system. The system is then managed by multiple government agencies involved in monitoring the media and they censors published information online or anywhere else in the “Great Firewall”. There are mainly two government agencies involved. The first, the Central Publicity Department, also known as the Propaganda Department, is in charge of distributing guidelines to “internet content providers” who have to obey and remove offensive content towards the Chinese government. The second, the Ministry of Public Security, according to an article written by Aja Romano from Vox, “monitors, filters and blocks websites which can involve everything from manually removing ‘illegal and criminal information’ online to blocking access to overseas domains, physically raiding offices of suspected offenders and access[ing] their computers.” Both agencies and the “Great Firewall” work together to censor the average Chinese citizens’ life.

The system works so efficiently on blocking and removing online content because authorities demand that companies censor themselves and to police their very own content. A business model has been created by censorship in China. Each online media company in China has its internal content review teams, with a single team being as big as thousands of workers just censoring and removing online content. There are also censorship factories that take on the censorship burdens for other companies day and night. For example, a company called Beyondsoft dedicated to censoring and monitoring online content. In those censorship factories, some people work as professional censors. Each professional censor has to undergo a week-long “theory” training, which teaches them sensitive information they would not have known before, like the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the most censored historical event in China. After the “theory” training, professional censors have to work in strict working environments, with a lot of testing, to make internet censorship work faster and more efficiently. The reason why the censorship factories are so strict is that “missing one beat could cause a serious political mistake.” stated Yiang Xiao, the head of Beyondsoft’s internet service business.

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Chinese internet censorship system works extremely fast and efficient. One major example of the system at work is the suppression of the on-going Hong Kong protests. According to Aja Romano from Vox, “the Hong Kong protests against the Chinese government began in spring over an unpopular extradition bill. But after a harsh police response, they escalated into an ongoing series of demonstrations calling for broader change and a more democratic voting process.” the system quickly got to work and censored all information related to the protests, making people in China either completely clueless about the situation and even providing false news and accusations about the protests, as William Callahan said, “the Hong Kong demonstrations are being portrayed, in mainland China, as rioters and terrorists.” The system also quickly censors people from all around the world who had openly spoken about their support of the protests, mainly targeting public figures and blacklisting them in China. Then they remove and censors mention, media and discussion about those who spoke out. An example of this is YouTube’s biggest creator Felix Kjellberg, known online as PewDiePie. He made a video criticizing China’s treatment to the protestors in Hong Kong. Now, Kjellberg is completely erased from popular search engines like “China’s Google” Baidu. The system blocks and filters online content without providing any public notice or explanation, if they want to censor it, they will.

Citizens living in China does not think that controlling and manipulating news from around the world and shutting out other people’s opinions online is wrong, as William Callahan stated, “Since Xi Jinping took power in 2012, there’s been much more emphasis on Chinese people, especially ambitious people who are in the Party, to not only agree but to show their agreement with government feelings and government policies, and to perform it on social media.” When all the criticism and different opinions on the Chinese government are censored and left with people who perform their agreement with the government online, more and more Chinese citizens will agree that this internet censorship system is right and is a huge part of China because they think it makes China a better place.

The Chinese internet censorship system works through the government being mainly concerned about Chinese online content. Putting in so much effort to censoring images and videos having opinions on the Chinese government, leaders, massacres… etc. Manipulating Chinese citizens into false beliefs about what is happening around the world. As William Callahan says, the Chinese public’s reaction to online media is “heavily curated by the government, by the party.”

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The Great Firewall: The Truth about Chinese Internet Censorship. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from
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