Unrest in Estonia lead to large scale attacks on government websites

30 04 2007

The unrest paralyzing Tallinn and other Estonian cities for two nights running has spilled over into cyberspace. We’re now seeing large attacks against websites run by Estonian goverment. Some of the sites are unreachable. Others are up, but do not allow any traffic from foreign IP addresses. Read the rest of this entry »


Dispelling the myth of China’s 30,000 Internet Police

25 03 2007

By James Nicholas Tay, March 25 2007

Let’s set the record straight. 30,000 Chinese Internet police? wow, really? That’s a big number, and a magically manufactured one.

What started out as rumour with Ethan Gutmann’s article in The Weekly Standard 15 february 2002, turned into “reportedly” 12 days later in an Amnesty International report. By August, and November “reportedly” had been dropped by U.S. newspapers such as the L.A. Times and Washingtion Post, and there you have it, rumour was no longer rumour, and reportedly was no longer reportedly. The rumours and reportedly had magically “like a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly”, turned into fact.

And that is the problem which continues till today with the BBC only last week continuing this myth. Furthermore, the ‘resourceful’ writers at The New York Times on March 4, 2005 have thought it necessary to increase and inflate the figure to 50,000 taking into account the rise of Internet users in China.

Many reporters and publications continue to repeatedly cite and reference the 30,000 number even though this has already been proven false by Nart Villeneuve and Ben Walker. In addition according to Nart Villeneuve EastSouthWestNorth, makes an interesting point that is: “Media reports seem to merge together the self-censorship practices by forums, portals, blog hosting companies and so forth with the Internet police.”

That said, I am not disputing the fact that there are Internet police in China. It is the exaggerated ‘magical’ 30,000 number that I take issue with. On the contrary, they do exist, and are active. They operate their own websites and often engage in law enforcement duties such as detaining suspects and shutting down their websites. They also reportedly, although it is safe to accept as true, often investigate, detain, and arrest dissidents.

In addition, they allow the public to submit reports (reportedly through SMS) against people who according to Nart Villeneuve “want to split the nation, or attack the party and the government, and people with “wrong doctrines opinion”/ falungong. (babelfish).” It is safe to deduce that the mandate of the Chinese Internet police is to investigate reports of people who criticize the government and members of Falun Gong.

I am not saying that Chinese Internet police do not exist. As I have shown above they do, rather it is the inflated, and exaggerated ‘magical’ 30,000 number that I have a problem with. It is clearly untrue, yet is constantly bandied around by the media. Reporting rumour as fact is definitely not helping the issue of Internet censorship in China which is bad enough as it is. Instead, it is contributing and negatively re-inforcing a climate of self-censorship in China. A climate that is detrimental to the cause of a free press in China, a cause in which many reporters and publications champion yet are slowing down with their “magical” 30,000 Internet police.