Earth to Eric Schmidt: China is NOT the only country that censors the internet

If you haven’t yet read Foreign Policy’s post in which Josh Rogin interviews Google chairman Eric Schmidt on the great firewall of China, go read it already. It’s a smart post about a smart business leader, and I agree with most of what Schmidt has to say.

But there’s one real doozy in there that surprised me. That’s Schmidt’s statement that China is the only nation actively censoring the internet:

“China’s the only government that’s engaged in active, dynamic censorship. They’re not shy about it.”

What? I’ve been to China, and I speak regularly with American expats still working in China. China certain does censor the internet … but the only government? That’s news to me, and maybe to you too.

But it would also be a complete shock to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which recently released its 2012 list of most censored countries.

The top half of the list is a regular rogue’s gallery, a who’s-who of international bad boys. Heading the list? Eritrea, a small country in Africa that used to be part of Ethiopia. Then come North Korea, Syria, and Iran.

Following up the leaders are Equitorial Guinea, Uzbekistan, Burma, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, and Belarus.

No China in the mix.

Well, at least not until you check the runners-up … those repressive-but-not-quite-as-evil countries to whom the Oscar did not go to.

China does feature prominently on the runners-up list, and in a specific blog post on China and censorship, the CPJ calls its communist party’s censorship notorious. But it’s not on the top 10 list this year, although China did make it to number six in 2010.

Wikipedia has more information on countries that censor online. Bahrain arrests bloggers and blocks websites at the ISP level. Belarus controls the internet within its borders via a single government-owned gateway. Burma puts you in jail for 15 years for unauthorized possession of that deadly weapon, the modem. Cuba uses IP blocking and keyword filtering. Iran filters the internet for porn, religion, and more and has said that it wants to create its own internal internet.

All told, no fewer than 18 countries are in Wikipedia’s “pervasive censorship” category.

Mr. Schmidt, we’d live in a better world than we do now if China stood alone in internet censorship. As the chairman of the world’s largest search engine, you should know that.

It is, after all, how I found a more complete list of censoring nations.

Image credit: Aelius Aaron/ShutterStock, M. Dykstra/ShutterStock


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