I read a piece of news on a Romanian website some days ago saying that the Chinese authorities have now two online virtual policemen (a woman and a man) that will show up on the main Chinese portals every 30 minutes asking users to report any illegal information they see and prohibiting them to access unauthorized websites. It was not exactly clear to me what illegal information meant but according to a piece published by China Digital Times illegal is to be translated by “not according to the official Chinese political views” or more simply by censorship. Interestingly enough the Digital Times piece gives a series of metaphors under which illegal information now circulates. Additionally, apoplexy
Wikipedia has three articles on Chinese censorship, ailment two of them being fully dedicated to the Internet censorship and its history. Moreover, other news stories say that blogging platforms had signed with Chinese authorities an agreement according to which they will have to delete or deny access to the blogs whose users have not registered and submitted their real data, i.e. name, passport/identity card number, address, phone number, bank account… With less than a year left until the opening of the Beijing Olympic Games all these actions can be seen as mere protection measures that a state is taking in order to guarantee the success and the successful and positive coverage of such a huge event as the hosting of the Olympics. On the other hand, the same measures compared to other existing legislations and communication systems can be seen as an infringement of, for example, the freedom of speech.
Therefore, taking these two issues (the 2 virtual policemen and the registered bloggers) as a starting point, I think it would be really interesting to undertake a research project that would content analyze the coverage (online, print, broadcast) in China and in the Western World of such topics. The idea would be to see whether the host country media and the Western media cover in a similar way and use similar expressions to describe the same issue.
Perhaps it will be interesting to see how “traditional” media (both Western and Chinese) cover the Olymipcs compared to the on-line/citizen journalists. This will be the first major Olympics with such media inventions, such as YouTube, MySpace on a wide spread basis.
Will spectators that blog and submit photos be tracked down and thrown out if they are critical? Can camera phones be prohibited and rendered useless? Doubt it, but will be interesting to see if the government tries!