China and the Internet generation have always had a mixed relationship. While, like many other Asian nations, the Chinese have the potential to capitalize on their physical plants and get new web enabled technologies to the masses at bargain basement prices, the freedom of the web can create an issue. After all, China is a community country and in order for that system to work in the real world there has to be a consensus on how the country should be run. Everyone has to be willing to accept, and stay in, his or her rightful place or the system will fall into chaos. The Internet is a place where ideas can be exchanged freely, with an amazing speed and often anonymously. That is a perfect storm of headache if you are trying to control the types of information your population is exposed to.
While this has led to some interesting legal positions in China, sometimes the long arm of the law is not always required, as was the case this last week. A summit, comprised of a number of prominent Chinese tech firms and representatives of the government have come up with some interesting conclusions. So what do the leaders of over 40 of China’s top tech companies talk about when they all get together behind closed doors?
Oh, the usual stuff: which girls are the hottest, who has the longest limousine and how they can add more security to the Great Firewall of China. For those of you not familiar with it, the Great Firewall of China, is a blocking system set up by the Chinese government that blocks its citizens access to information that the government believes to be dangerous or harmful to its interests.
After the summit a statement released on Xinhua, the official Chinese news organization, said that the group had come to an agreement to “strengthen self-control, self-restraint and strict self-discipline”, an eerily vague statement about what changes may be made in the future, and what materials may be deemed off limits by the Chinese government. Given that some of these companies have ties to, or interests in major American tech firms such as Yahoo, lawyers who do business with these firms, or work in international business law in general, should keep a wary eye on these changes and how they may affect the policy of Internet companies outside of China.
The news organization went on to say that the technology firms had agreed to, “resolutely curb”, a number of different types of information including: online rumors, pornography, fraud and any information that was deemed ,”harmful” by the Chinese government.
This change was part of a larger policy released by the Chinese government. After the Communist Party’s Central Committee Meeting was held last month they issues a document with their annual policy on the Internet. This document said, explicitly that the government wanted to, “strengthen guidance and administration of social internet services and instant communications tools and regulate the orderly dissemination of information” and, “apply the law to sternly punish the dissemination of harmful information”.