We at the OpenNet Initiative today released a bulletin on restrictions placed by the Chinese state on online news publishers. In summary:
“China’s new regulations for Internet news content significantly tighten prior requirements that govern all news-related content transmitted through Internet-based technologies. The regulations target not only existing news organizations, but also individuals and groups posting news-related content to personal Web sites, Web logs (blogs), mobile phone text messaging (through Simple Message Service, or SMS), and other Internet communication forums. The regulations provide broad coverage and expansive government discretion in defining and punishing offences, effectively restricting legal Internet news content to that produced or sanctioned by the Chinese government.”
This bulletin points to a key element of the Chinese filtering strategy: it is not just technological controls, but also legal restrictions (which in turn often place a burden on intermediaries) that get the filtering job done. Add that to the pressures of social norms, soft controls, and the economic force of competition (through which companies compete with one another fiercely to curry favor with regulators) and the regime functions highly effectively and on many layers.