Internet censors in China are defending online censorship practices — or insisting censorship does not exist — ahead of a conference where online privacy is likely to be on the minds of attendees.
As Hong Kong Free Press reports, China’s main leader of online censorship, Lu Wei, is deploying euphemistic language regarding the country’s censorship activities. China “manages” the Internet, he says, but that is different from censoring online content.
Lu, who is chief of the State Internet Information Office in China, said, “It is a misuse of words if you say ‘content censorship.’ But no censorship does not mean there is no management. The Chinese government learnt how to manage the internet from Western developed countries, we have not learnt enough yet.”
Lu’s remarks precede the second annual World Internet Conference, which the Chinese government is sponsoring on Dec. 16-18 in the city of Wuzhen. China’s president, Xi Jinping, will address the conference. High-level representatives of other countries will also attend. They include prime ministers from countries such as Russia and Pakistan, which exercise aggressive online censorship policies.
Lu’s efforts to portray China’s restrictions on online content as a type of management rather than censorship are consistent with the broader message that the government has been trying to send in recent years regarding “Internet sovereignty.” Chinese authorities have been working to construct an image in which regulating content online inside China’s borders is viewed as a legitimate extension of the government’s right to control sovereign territory in a physical sense.
Of course, to outside observers who have not accepted the concept of Internet sovereignty, what people like Lu see as “management” of online content looks much more like censorship. China blocks access to about 3,000 websites and has also taken steps to prevent the use of tools, like Tor, that allow users to circumvent censorship policies.