Press Not Censored, Say Readers Of Censored Press

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That’s one finding from a recent survey showing how people in 17 countries perceive their level of freedom:

Some of the results of the poll will not surprise anyone who has heard of Edward Snowden: a majority of Americans and Germans feel they are not free from government surveillance or monitoring, and only a third of Americans and Canadians, 38 percent of Britons and 27 percent of Germans feel the Internet is a safe place to express their opinions. But the eye-catching figure is that 76 percent of respondents in China said they do feel free from government surveillance and monitoring – the highest proportion among the 17 countries polled (Australia came in second with 72 percent). And 45 percent of Chinese respondents said the Internet was a safe place to express their opinions, more than in most countries polled (France rated worst on this score, at 22 percent).

Another surprise was the proportion of respondents in China – 47 percent – who said their press, which is in fact rigidly censored, is free. This was higher than the result for France (24 percent), Spain (28 percent), Germany (39 percent), America (42 percent), Australia (42 percent) and Britain (45 percent).

Over at Quartz, Lily Kuo notes that China is easing off its “more Orwellian approaches” to information control in favor of “allowing a certain degree of open debate on the Internet”:

How does this work in practice? Since 2005, dozens of local governments have been hiring Internet commentators – known as wumao for the supposed ¢50-a-post state-backed bloggers receive for interjecting pro-government sentiment into online discussions and for defusing anti-Communist Party sentiment. This is consistent with government directives, advising officials to focus less on controlling online discussion, Yang says. For instance, in 2010, a local public security department in Fujian province published a document saying Internet management should combine “damming with channeling, with more focus on channeling.”

Another way the government attempts to influence public opinion via the internet is through actual government engagement. In the city of Ji’an, in Jiangxi province, Yang explains that rather than blocking bloggers’ comments or accounts, officials have been contacting bloggers, explaining the harm of their posts and encouraging them to delete or modify them of their own accord.