Obama Censored for Criticizing Chinese Internet Censorship

Dennis Faas's picture

U.S. President Barack Obama has told Chinese Internet users that online freedom is a "source of strength". But the comments themselves appear to have become the victim of censorship.

The president spoke at a "town hall" event attended by students in Shanghai. Questioned about online communication he said "I've always been a strong supporter of open Internet use. I'm a big supporter of non-censorship...unrestricted Internet access is a source of strength and I think it should be encouraged."

He also argued that the criticism which came with online freedom of speech made him a better president. (Source: reuters.com)

Comments Deleted From Chinese Forum

Ironically, the event and subsequent coverage appears to have been far from free of censorship. Obama's comments are reported to have been deleted from a popular Chinese news forum within half an hour of being published.

What online reaction did take place in China was largely mixed. Some applauded the fact that the censorship was even brought up by a foreign leader, while others accused him of paying lip service to the issue and being more interested in getting economic support than improving human rights.

China, a communist state, has an extensive record of online censorship. At present, social networking giants Twitter and Facebook are banned from the country, while one region has no Internet access at all. Earlier this year the country's government put on hold plans to install a "voluntary" filtering software package on all new machines. While it was billed as being a weapon against adult content, analysis showed the list of blocked sites included those of political opponents.

President Pressured Over Piracy

Meanwhile, Obama has been urged by U.S. companies to pressure the Chinese government to do more to protect their copyrights. The American Chamber of Commerce in China met with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke as part of the presidential visit.

While the Chamber was fairly restrained in its public comments, its former chairman told TIME that piracy "is still a horrendous problem [in China] and it's alarming for the business community." (Source: internetnews.com)

Locke also questioned existing U.S. policy on tech exports during a speech to the Chamber. At the moment, some high-tech products can't be exported to China under security rules. According to Locke, these restrictions sometimes go too far and it makes little sense to ban the export of products which are available in mainstream U.S. stores.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet