China Is Losing a War Over Internet

These appear to be dark days for the Internet in China.

Four months into a crusade against Internet pornography, the government is closing thousands of sites–some pornographic, some not–and tightening rules on who can register Web addresses inside China.

Foreign sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, blocked by censors in the run-up to the 60th anniversary of Communist Party rule on Oct. 1, remain inaccessible to most Chinese users. Several prominent critics of the state who used the Internet to spread their message have been detained or imprisoned.

Yet this list of casualties obscures a larger truth: The censors are losing.

The dozen or so years since the Web came to China have seen repeated rounds of crackdowns and detentions, aided by a steady growth in scope and sophistication of the government’s filtering apparatus that critics dub the Great Firewall. Still, the Internet has enabled more Chinese to have more access to information today, and given them greater ability to communicate and express themselves than at any time since the founding of the People’s Republic.

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