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China’s online censorship efforts ramp up

Internet censors in China recently stepped up their crackdown on content they deem "inappropriate" online, jailing a Chinese blogger in the process.

For many, the Internet has become a place where individuals can express their thoughts and opinions on a variety of issues. However, in some countries, the level of criticism and opinion that one can take is becoming less and less strong. One country where this is particularly true is in China.

The world's most populous country has a long history of censorship, choosing to eliminate many of the its most dark periods of history from the record books, like the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989. In many cases, this censorship has a lot to do with dissent within the country, making it difficult for citizens to practice their right to freedom of speech.

Crackdown steps up
Mashable reported that the country recently stepped up its censorship practices as a part of efforts to limit porn and "spreading rumors" over the web. Unfortunately, this led to the jailing of a prominent blogger Qin Zhihui.

The news source noted that he was sentenced to three years in prison because of "inaccurate reports" he posted to Sina Weibo, one of the most popular social media sites in the country. In the past, other bloggers have been sentenced to similar fates – most notablly the artist and blogger Ai Wei Wei.

Qin was accused of rumormongering various reports about celebrities and government officials. Unfortunately, other sites are being shutdown in the name of limiting pornography, which has been a reason for censorship in China, but in other countries as well, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

"But it is certainly establishing easy political justifications to take down websites and revoke licenses to operate," Michael Carbone, an expert on Chinese Internet freedom, told the news source. "[I]t may also be used as a political excuse to implement technical measures to further solidify surveillance and censorship capacity."

The problem with such policies is that it makes people think twice about the kind of content they would like to post. While in some right, it is important to consider what one says, especially to avoid issues like the recent Dutch girl who tweeted about being from Al Qaeda to an America airline. However, preventing the "spread of rumors" is a delicate way of phrasing the practice of expressing oneself online, and one that is limiting the individual rights of Chinese citizens.

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