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The Varsavsky Foundation
Avenida Bruselas 7, Planta 3
28100 Alcobendas
Madrid, Spain

The political blog of a social entrepreneur

Censorship in China, United States, Japan, Korea and Spain

China´s censorship is well known in Europe and the States. But much to my surprise, I am writing this post from Beijing where tonight I tried but consistenlty failed to experience censorship. I tried everything I could think of. I did searches in Google on all the taboo subjects in China, for example Tiananmen Square, Tibet Independence, Falon Gong, both on my Blackberry and the internet connection at the hotel and….no censorship.

There were tons of results extremely critical of the Chinese government in my searches. Moreover I had been told that in China you could not access the Wikipedia, but I can get it without any problems. Now let me clarify, I am sure that there is censorship in China but it is probably in Chinese and that I cannot check. Or maybe I got the uncensored GPRS and the uncensored ISP. I don´t know what´s going on but everything I try works: blogging, flickring, skyping, googling, yahooing, netvibing where i have tons of blog feeds and of course foning (we already have our first 100 Chinese foneros). I was also surprised to see that in China you can buy SIM cards for phones and GPRS data services without disclosing your identity. I did this yesterday. You can also use Skype without difficulty and surf anonimously in tons of internet cafes.

The same is not true in Japan for example where last week I was denied the purchase of local mobile phone service as I was told that it is not available to foreigners nor can you buy it without disclosing your identity as you can in Spain. And surprisingly me an my 11 year old son were thrown out of a video arcade because my son was supposedly underage (there was no gambling). And yesterday in South Korea I found out that South Koreans have to input their full names and national ID numbers before being allowed to surf on many sites including Google (who I understand is fighthing this government request).

This unusual practice makes it such that it is hard to surf without being followed. And in America where most of the China criticism is based there´s significant censorship with the “obscenity” loophole as defined by the FCC (telecom regulator). When I watch TV in America (rarely) I find that the obscenity censorship is very much a practice. In Spain for example there are many TV and radio shows that would be defined as obscene in America regularly being aired.

Comparing all countries my opinion is that Spain, where I live is the least censored country that I experienced, nothing much is censored neither based on ideology or morality. Same is true of most of Europe. The rest of the world, America and Asia included would score worse in an openness index.

Posted on April 13, 2006