Mass blocking of foreign websites, spying on cyber-dissidents, using social networks for propaganda purposes and “digital bonfires” of Uyghur sites – China continues to have one of the world’s most sophisticated systems of Internet surveillance and censorship. Its mechanisms for filtering and monitoring online content are collectively known as the Great Firewall of China. Launched in 2003, it can filter access to foreign sites and block keywords such as “human rights,” “Tiananmen” or “Liu Xiaobo.” Its surveillance mechanisms are integrated into Chinese social networks and chat services such as Sina Weibo and QQ, and even into VoIP. Commercial companies are required to guarantee censorship on their networks. In some parts of the troubled regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, Internet speed is less than half what it is in the major coastal cities. Nonetheless, the rapid growth of the participative Internet and its impact on social and political debate are making the censors’ job more and more complicated. An increase in monitoring and persecution of online activists and their methods is symptomatic of the regime’s nervousness.
China is ranked #176 over 180 countries in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.