Reporting of search giant's tilt at censors is muzzled

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 January, 2010, 12:00am
 

Propaganda authorities are responding to the row over internet censorship triggered by US search giant Google in the way they know best - more censorship.

Newspapers and websites have been banned from carrying their own in-depth reporting or commentary on Google's refusal to adhere to censorship regulations and its criticism of organised hacking stemming from the mainland.

Reporters and editors at more outspoken newspapers such as The Southern Metropolis News and Beijing Times confirmed they received an order on Thursday to publish only the approved version of events from Xinhua or the People's Daily.

On Thursday, the newspapers made Google's announcement their lead story, and ran detailed reports and commentaries critical of Beijing's internet controls.

Yesterday's Xinhua and People's Daily commentaries urged Google to obey Chinese law, and offered no discussion about the pros and cons of internet controls.

Major internet portals such as Sina.com and Sohu.com were told to downplay Google's announcement and limit the fallout, especially after huge numbers of internet users expressed frustration with Web restrictions. Webmasters have been told to delete pictures of people who laid flowers and lit candles outside Google China's Beijing headquarters to mourn its potential closure.

Propaganda mouthpieces took the fight to Google.

'[Google] is not the first or only one that fared miserably in China's internet market, and censorship is just an ingenious excuse to flee the Chinese market in which they failed their investors and shareholders,' a China Daily commentary said. The perils of guiding public opinion were laid bare in an online poll by the Global Times, a tabloid published by the People's Daily.

The poll of 58,000 people found 78 per cent thought China should not loosen its internet controls because of Google, and 70 per cent believed Google's announcement constituted a 'violation of China's independent political rights'.

However, when the poll reached the broader internet community, huge numbers of people cast votes and inverted the results.

The poll was swiftly closed, but the original story remained.

The newspaper accused Google of being a pawn of US lawmakers, and said it had a notorious record of copyright violations as well as distributing pornography.

In a commentary headlined 'What the hell is Google playing at', columnist Jin Chanrong said Google should respect China as an independent country and not assume it is operating in a foreign settlement, a reference to colonialism.

'[Google should] stick to Chinese laws and regulations when doing business in the country ... Their ulterior political attempts to influence China's political situation and social reform are doomed to fail.'

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