Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Censorship or self-defense

Business Week


In the free wheeling wild west, anything less than total freedom is considered censorship, social engineering, draconian totalitarian measures that strip individual freedom encroaching on human rights. Chinese boot camps for Internet addicts were once jokes at the company water coolers. After numerous incidents in Europe and America where young male high school students terrorized their school using guns, the laughter died quickly.

Impressionable teenagers have always been vulnerable to short-sighted seductive pleasures, from smoking to drinking, from peer pressure to get-rich-quick schemes. Yet, some people would turn a blind eye to the dangers of these same teenagers immersing hours daily in mood changing artificial environments without any regulations or supervision.

Applying the brakes on the runaway successes of Internet games is not censorship, but social self-defense. It would be tragic if regulations come too late, as in the financial meltdown.


China has banned Web sites from advertising or linking to games that glamorize violence, another step in China's censorship campaign aimed at ensuring social stability ahead of the 60th anniversary of communist rule on Oct. 1.

A notice posted on the Culture Ministry Web site on Monday said games that promote drug use, obscenities, gambling, or crimes such as rape, vandalism and theft are "against public morality and the nation's fine cultural traditions."

"Such online games promote the glorification of mafia life ... and are a serious threat to the moral standards of society causing vulnerable young people to be adversely affected," the notice said. The ban on the Web sites starts immediately.

No details were given on how the law would be implemented, but the notice called for law enforcement bodies to ensure Web sites adhere to the new law.

China has the world's largest population of Internet users, more than 298 million, and the world's most extensive system of Web monitoring and censorship.

While the government claims the main targets of its Web censorship are pornography, online gambling, and other sites deemed harmful to society, critics say that often acts as cover for detecting and blocking sensitive political content that can be found on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube, which are all blocked in China.

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