SOPA: Chinese Internet Users See a Familiar Face


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Free speech advocacy group Global Voices Online has posted a set of very unique reactions to the controversial SOPA/PIPA legislation currently heading toward a vote in the US Congress. The reactions come from China, where bloggers and users of China’s Twitter-like Weibo site have been apparently been watching the situation in America with great interest. Many of these users, it seems, see something familiar in SOPA: a reflection of China’s so-called Great Firewall, the filtering system employed by the Chinese government to stifle the flow of information into the country via the Internet. One user on Weibo calls SOPA a “crazy” attempt to copy the Great Firewall, while others sarcastically call it a validation of Chinese innovation and of Chinese treatment of its citizens on the internet.

Interestingly, the Chinese are not the only ones who see the similarity between SOPA/PIPA and the Chinese system of internet citizenship. In remarks to the Entertainment Content Protection Summit, former Senator and current MPAA chairman Chris Dodd compared the requirements of SOPA to those placed on Google by China: “When the Chinese told Google that they had to block sites or they couldn’t do [business] in their country, they managed to figure out how to block sites.” During the same remarks Dodd compared Google to the getaway driver in a bank robbery, because it allows people to find sites via search that facilitate piracy.

Meanwhile, at a conference on digital freedom at the Hague, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech in which she called on countries like Syria, Iran, Russia, and China to stifling the free flow of information in their countries by restricting access to the internet. She said that the restriction of internet access constituted a threat to international commerce and human rights. She also referred obliquely to a proposal recently introduced to the UN that would allow governments to exercise more direct control over the internet in their countries, a proposal which the United States has opposed.