Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chinese Internet vs. Other Internet?

I saw Donnie Hao Dong's presentation about a 'Splitting Internet' today at Berkman- about the internet not being homogeneous- and I must say it is interesting to hear the perspective from the inside- Dong is a native Chinese law professor from Kunming. His talk was on Chinese censorship and how the internet might not be universal across cultures. You can view the webcast here. This is especially useful to me, in light of my upcoming lecture at UC Berkeley on "Chinese Law, ICTs and Entrepreneurship." 

I was going to do a summary of Donnie's presentation on this post, but David Weinberger had liveblogged the event here, and also had an illuminating chat with Donnie after the talk. So I shamelessly reproduce and adapt some key points that struck me about the presentation: 

(UPDATE: 4/7/10: Donnie clarifies that he is not advocating for an isolated 'Chinese internet' but that rather, "What I want to argue is simple: the social structure and social norms, as well as the legal concepts may affect online ecology profoundly, hence the "single" Internet is not a truth..." Read more at his Blawgdog post 
  • Government control:
    • Until 2005, the Chinese control over the Net was accomplished mainly by technical control. (like Firewalls, etc)
    • From 2003-9, there was more and more legal enforcement.
    • In 2010, there is a legislative rebooting. There is now a jungle of licenses: domains, commercial websites, webcast website, news website, online games…
    • The switch from tech to law has increased certainty because the authorities can explain why sites are being shut down. It has also caused important discussions to occur. But, the law is immature and thus enforcement is somewhat arbitrary. And the “clouds of licensing systems” are still difficult to navigate.
  • Not one Intenet
    • Hillary Clinton said there is a single Internet, says Donnie. “I do not think it is really true from the cultural, legal, and linguistic aspects.” Tim Wu, in Who Controls the Internet, says that the Internet is splitting, and there are under-appreciated advantages of this. “I agree,” says Donn
  • Q to Donnie: How does the censorship look from the inside?
    • A from Donnie: As Rebecca MacKinnon said, most of the citizens don’t feel the censorship. There’s so much information available, so much news, so many services, so many forums. And if you really want to get some information, you can find a way to. And if you really want to express something, you can. The filtering mechanism can’t work perfectly, and their are many examples of this.

Official Event Announcement:

Cyber-pluralism: Can We Get Along with Each Other in a “Splitting” Internet?

Donnie, Hao Dong, Berkman Fellow

Tuesday, March 16, 12:30 pm
Berkman Center, 23 Everett Street, second floor
RSVP required for those attending in person (rsvp@cyber.law.harvard.edu)
This event will be webcast live at 12:30 pm ET and archived on our site shortly after.
From pervasive doubtable usage of copyright works in Chinese web-sphere to Google’s latest dilemma in China, it seems the Internet as an open, universal and single network is still an “ought to” imagination but not a truth. The numerous “autonomous systems” which consist of the Internet are governed by various regimes, laws and/or even impulse ridden policies. Can we get along with each other in such a “splitting” Internet when the technological factors are giving place of “coding” the networks to the policies and laws in different countries? Donnie Dong will present some new developments about China’s IP (Intellectual Property), IG (Internet Governance) and IB (Internet Business), then discuss a possible perspective of observing the Internet: Cyber-pluralism

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