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According to a report from the New Zealand Herald, the US government is formally requesting China release more details on its censorship activities. The action, being pursued under World Trade Organization rules, is purportedly aimed at leveling the playing field of foreign websites trying to compete in China.
The idea is that if the US can understand what traffic may be blocked, it will serve to increase access for US business to the growing consumer market there, in a region home to an estimated 500 million Internet users.
Marketers have drooled over the consumer market in the Far East for some time. But historically there has been a sense of trepidation towards wading into the waters there, due to the perceived opaqueness of their Internet systems, specifically relating to alleged censorship activities. This request would hopefully shed some light on the subject.
Asking for more detailed information would also help determine what part of the alleged censorship comes from government directly, and what is indirectly managed under the auspices of ISP’s, a subject of some debate.
Expect increasing pressures toward openness in countries where traditionally strict censorship is the rule, in light of pressure toward global competitiveness and streamlined data flow. Also, expect opposition from countries that aren’t very interested in their Internet infrastructure turning into a version of the Wild West we’ve seen in the past in the US and other emerging Internet economies.
Author Cameron Camp, ESET