Blown To Bits

The Olympics and the Chinese Internet

Monday, May 5th, 2008 by Harry Lewis

ComputerWorld reports today:

The Chinese government is demanding that US-owned hotels there filter Internet service during the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing, US Senator Sam Brownback has alleged. The Chinese government is requiring US-owned hotels to install Internet filters to “monitor and restrict information coming in and out of China,” Brownback said Thursday.

This is an odd story. China is demanding that the hotels filter bits during the Games—as opposed to what happens the rest of the time? “The great firewall of China” already keeps lots of bits out of the country. The story doesn’t explain what extra protection the hotels are supposed to provide.

Anyone going to China should try going to a few web sites or doing a few searches. You can get some of the effect just by sitting at home and using for awhile rather than, but that won’t give you the experience I had in Shanghai last year, of mysteriously losing the Internet connection in my hotel room because I had asked the wrong question.

The OpenNet Initiative web site has a great deal more information about what is filtered where, and how the ONI researchers have gotten those answers.

I say: the hotels should comply with whatever the Chinese are demanding, and make sure their clients understand why they are doing so.

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