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Uh, Censorship in China Is More Unbelievably Scary Than You Probably Realized

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So begins a New York Times story about the increasingly scary sophistication and growth of Chinese censorship:

A Beijing entrepreneur, discussing restaurant choices with his fiancée over their cellphones last week, quoted Queen Gertrude's response to Hamlet: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." The second time he said the word "protest," her phone cut off.

This is quite literally the stuff Orwellian nightmares are made of. "Protest," in English or Chinese, cuts the connection, according to accounts collected by the Times. There is no escape into a safe language. Computers never stop listening, never get tired, never stop policing.


It's just one part of China's increasingly overt and sophisticated apparatus for policing what's spoken or expressed, in any medium. VPNs, tunnels to internet freedom, have been taken down. Gmail poisoned. The blocklist grows longer, subtler, more complex.


What's scary about this kind of censorship is how easy it is. It's algorithms and buttons. Code and circuits. It's the kind of censorship that you can wrap a billion people in. Worse, the sense relayed is that as much as we want to believe that "freedom will find a way" or whatever it is Americans like to believe about freedom as a determinative force with its own will, the routes around the Great Firewall and China's other methods of censorship are getting narrower and fewer in number.

Or as the Times puts it: "The cat is getting bigger." [NYT]