“The boom of pornographic content on the Internet has contaminated cyberspace and perverted China’s young minds,”
The above comment was made by Zhang Xinfeng, a Chinese deputy public security minister. It was made in reference to China’s announcement that it was starting to “crack down” on online pornography. This past Friday, China also announced that two website operators (one would assume the webmasters for the sights) were each sentenced to four years in prison and another website operator was sentenced to a year. All three were convicted of “distributing pornographic material” in three separate cases that took place in 2006. However, the biggest online porn case to come out of China took place this past November where a website operator was sentenced to life in prison for distributing porn on a website with (reportedly) over 600,000 registered users.
Besides the cultural differences between the United States and China, these cases and China’s announcement Friday bring up an interesting question. How does a government go about governing cyberspace? By its very nature, the internet is border-less. In formation can flow from one district in China to the next just as easily as information can flow from the San Fernando Valley to China. It’s one thing to pronounce a “crack down on porn”, but it’s another thing entirely to actually do that within a particular country. If you’re a bit skeptical of this, just ask any IT guy or gal at your nearest office complex how hard it is to keep porn out of just one building, or even a group of offices within that building, and you’ll see what I mean. Now multiply that on the national scale, and you’ll begin to understand just how tough a time China will have with this. Theoretically, it sounds nice, but in practice, it will be a logistical headache for whoever is in charge of keeping porn out of China.
This also brings up another question: Exactly how does China define “Chinese Cyberspace”? One could argue that the answer is simply “those pages to which the Chinese public have access”, but isn’t that just the whole of the internet? All one needs is access to a computer and the whole planet, literally, is at their fingertips. The whole idea behind the internet is to be able to access information that would be otherwise inaccessible. Of course, the Chinese point to existing and developing technologies that will help them in their campaign against porn, but it ia an uphill battle, for sure. One of the things history has taught us is that when the government outlaws something that is in high demand, the people will get it in spite of laws. Case in point: prohibition. When the US government outlawed alcoholic drinks, the people (especially southerners) found ways to outrun, outsmart, and generally outdo those charged with enforcing those laws.
I suppose this is China’s prohibition. The only problem is, it’s infinitely harder to control the flow of electrons than alcohol, especially in today’s age with today’s technology. Everything including iPods, Zunes, and PSP’s will create nothing short of a nightmare for the Chinese “Porn Police”.