Two multiple choice questions to gauge your online vulnerability to Chinese censorship. Check letters that apply.
1. Does anything contained on your website’s pages incite:
A. Breaking China’s laws or administrative regulations
B. Government overthrow
C. Division of China or harm of national reunification (getting Taiwan back)
D. Hatred or discrimination?
2. Does anything contained on your website’s pages promote:
A. Falsehood or rumors that destroy social order
B. Feudal superstitions, illicit sex, gambling, violence, or murder - this one is probably the most tricky as the system has some automated monitoring that picks up certain words that could have multiple meanings ( e.g. we had a client who sold ceramic balls whose site was blocked)
E. Injury to the reputation of state organizations?
If you managed no check marks then you’re on the right side of China’s State Council Order No.292, governing restrictions for online content providers.
This certainly doesn’t preclude your site from censorship, not in a land where the gap between the letter of the law and its application is so wide.
For evidence, consider this quickly-found post on China expat site www.thebeijinger.comSure, it’s relatively mild, especially compared to the blatant incitements of discrimination, slander, and solicitations for illicit sex that can easily be found there and on other similar sites.
“Aha,” an acute reader will think, “that site’s in English.” An excellent point, leading to the larger point – the Chinese government saves its censorship firepower for Chinese individuals and organizations much more inimical to its interests.
Western organizations that are not minnows, but in fact whales big enough to be potentially inimical to Chinese data security, as well as to vested business interests, can and do find themselves blocked, Google being the favorite use case. But such whales already have competent legal counsel apprising them of the risks involved, however.
China’s government views Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Youtube as a clear and present danger to its unique (but by no means solitary) system of information control. There are other blocked western sites aplenty,including Instagram, most recently. But the first four are prevalent on the preponderance of commercial western sites that have social media integration.
The risk attendant is twofold, to both search engines ranking and office efficiency. Baidu and other Chinese search engines penalize sites that have links to banned sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Bear with us if this seems elemental, and consider the case of TOMRA Sorting Food, who this month proudly announced the launch of their Chinese website. Their site included links to Western social media sites.This oversight will lower organic search results, a key channel in the age of digital marketing. It will also become an issue should they wish to advertise the site extensively in China.
As to the second risk, time wasted watching Google searches timeout and Tweets fail to post is a China cost of doing business, as is spending the better part of a morning watching a 2mb PPT upload on Dropbox. Even advanced and costly SNO box solutions fail regularly in the face of systematic throttling. Office managers relying on cheaper VPN solutions such as Astrill must balance savings against a significantly more hostile, frustrated workforce.
China censorship is a serious political issue. It is not a serious threat to western businesses, save those positioned to monopolize a segment of China’s Internet. Rather, it is a tolerance, one of many challenges to be faced on the path to robust Chinese market share.
The best way to get over this is to have a bespoke Chinese site, hosted in China and designed specifically to overcome all the issues posed by the Chinese firewall. Hosting the site in China also means that it will down load much quicker
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