Internet Freedom–or the Lack Thereof–in China

Paul Rosenzweig reports on what one has to put up with:

  • The one time I thought to go to an Internet cafe for access, I was waved off by my guide.  Turns out I would have had to show my passport (which was back in the hotel in a safe) to get access.
  • We had a Gmail account (since deleted) for email contact.  Every time I tried to access it the processing got =very= slow.  By contrast, all the connections to Chinese websites were quite quick.  I strongly suspect that some serious filtering was slowing access.
  • The same was true for access to non-Chinese, Western web sites.  Efforts, for example, to navigate to cnn.com or google.com proved to be exercises in either patience or frustration.  In the end, I had better things to do with my time and mostly gave up.
  • The highlight (or lowlight) of the exercise was on my last attempt to get to the Gmail account.  I was using Internet Explorer 7 (old stuff) and as I went to the Gmail page, an explosion of pop-up web pages started propagating.   It got up to 58 different browsers opened before I could halt it with a 3-finger (CTL-ALT-DEL) hard stop.  I haven’t seen a virus (I assume it was a virus) like that on a US computer in several years.

I’d very much like to visit China, and I might be willing to put up with all of this hassle in order to do so. But it is a hassle. And it shouldn’t be. Contra Rousseau, man may not have been born free, but in a host of places, he is in chains.