18 July 2009

CN - How China polices the internet

(Financial Times)
Like the entire political apparatus in China, the censorship machine is controlled by two institutional bodies: the Communist party and the government. At the national level, the propaganda department of the party and the information office of the state council (the cabinet) are in charge. But these institutions only deal with big, strategic issues or nationwide challenges to the party's image and power. Day-to-day surveillance and control of the population are carried out by a far greater number of departments: the double structure of censorship institutions is duplicated at the provincial, county and city level; in addition, every government department operates its own internet surveillance. Together, the authorities keep a 24-hour watch on what is said online. The police force still does surveillance via keyword searches on search engines, with every officer being given a certain number of keywords to cover. Increasingly, however, more advanced methods are being employed, such as the use of "data-mining" software. The "internet cops" can also order website hosts to take down unwanted content. Elsewhere, government departments monitor the online response to their policies and watch out for unrest brewing in their area of responsibility, or for accusations of misconduct or corruption against one of their own. This information is then - selectively - passed on to the local propaganda department and information offices, which decide on a response.