China criticised for YouTube censorship

March 27th, 2009 - 12:05 pm ICT by IANS  

San Francisco, March 27 (DPA) The Electronic Freedom Foundation Thursday voiced alarm at the blanket censorship apparently placed on YouTube earlier in the week by Chinese authorities.
“Such absolute blocks are unusual,” said Danny O’Brien, International Outreach Coordinator with the Internet freedom group. “The purpose is to make very clear that it’s a deliberate gesture.”

Access in China to the Google-owned video website has been blocked since Monday.

Chinese authorities have been evasive over their involvement, but the block came just days after Tibetan exiles posted a video showing Chinese troops beating Buddhist monks. China has denounced the video as a fake.

“This kind of blocking is hard to trace and know who or what is demanding the block,” said O’Brien.

Google has avoided an outright challenge to China over the issue. “We don’t know the reason for the block and are working to restore access to users in China as quickly as possible,” spokesman Scott Rubin said.

But the Global Network Initiative of which Google is a member roundly condemned the apparent action by China.

“The recent blocking of YouTube in China was done without notice to the public or any explanation of the legal basis for the action. Such actions are inconsistent with the rule of law and the right to freedom of expression,” the organisation said.

Google has previously complied with the wishes of Chinese censors, restricting access on its Chinese sites to thousands of sensitive terms starting in early 2006, after the Chinese government had consistently blocked access to an uncensored Google site.

O’Brien said that along with other companies whose content is blocked by China, Google could promote the use of proxy services, which allow users to access blocked websites via third-party sites.

While blanket blockages of prominent websites like YouTube were damaging, O’Brien said that an even greater danger to freedom of speech on the Internet was the blocking of individual videos that did not raise such a furore, but which nevertheless severely restricted the information available to Chinese citizens.

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