Contemporary Issues in Computer Science

 

China in the Information Age

 

 

In the spring of 2008, as China was preparing to host the Olympics, The Atlantic published an interesting article, “The Connection has been Reset, on the Internet, accessibility, and censorship in China.  It described what some observers had named, “The Great Firewall of China”.  You may find it interesting as background to the current discussion.

 

In the spring of 2010, two years later, a hot issue was what Google should do about its presence in China in the face of government censorship.  Here are some articles about the discussion at that time:

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/13/world/asia/13beijing.html?pagewanted=1&partner=rss&emc=rss

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/13/AR2010011300359.html?hpid=topnews

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/14/world/asia/14beijing.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

 

By the summer of 2011, the discussion had changed.  The Chinese had already become adept at molding Internet technology to meet their special needs.  See the following articles:

 

Baidu: A Chinese Search Engine

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baidu

 

Chinese Authorities Muzzle Traditional Media in the Wake of High Speed Train Wreck:

            http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/01/world/asia/01crackdown.html?_r=2&hp

 

China’s Microbloggers Rattle the Censor’s Cage: 

            http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/12/us-china-microbloggers-idUSTRE77B0JH20110812

 

Chinese Site Bans Web Tools Used to Avoid Filters:

http://money.ca.msn.com/investing/news/business-news/chinese-site-bans-web-tools-used-to-evade-filters-2

 

Chinese Writers, the Censors, and the Internet:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/07/world/asia/murong-xuecun-pushes-censorship-limits-in-china.html?_r=1

 

Choose one of the following questions:

 

  1. Does it matter any more what Google (and other non-Chinese) websites decide to do in China?  Several years ago, this question raised important ethical as well as business issues for western companies.  Today, should they even bother worrying about them?

 

  1. What is the future of government censorship in the Internet age?  Is it similar to what happens in the cybersecurity realm, in which the good guys try to stay one technology leap ahead of the bad guys (with the censors now trying to stay one step ahead of the people)?  Putting yourself into the role of a censor, do you realize that that the battle is lost - and surrender?

 

Write a short essay of about 600 – 800 words.  Write your essay in the style of an op/ed piece.  In other words, state your opinion, then back it up with facts.  Note that there is no “right” answer that we’re looking for.  What we want is a clearly articulated position that is supported by at least some evidence.

 

See the Homeworks section of the Class Policies page for further instructions on how to complete this and other homework assignments.