Is Facebook a Destabilizing Force for Chinese Society?

Internet meme with various webpage icons that are blocked in China by the "Great Firewall." (Image: VPNForChina.com)
Internet meme with various webpage icons that are blocked in China by the "Great Firewall." (Image: VPNForChina.com)

Foreigners who will attend the 2022 Winter Olympics, if Beijing is successful in its bid, will be able to get uncensored Internet access. This isn’t an issue for Chinese who “don’t like” sites like Facebook and Twitter, an official said.

The 2022 Winter Olympics can’t find a home:

China has always kept a tight rein on its Internet.

The government says that social media, explicitly foreign services, could be a destabilizing force for the Chinese society, or may even affect the country’s security.

In China, popular foreign social media sites—such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and even Google Inc.’s main search engine and Gmail service—are all inaccessible. That’s unless you use specialized software to break through the “Great Firewall.”

Will the U.S. fight China’s Internet censorship?:

China committed to providing the media with the same freedom to report on the 2008 Beijing summer Olympics as they enjoyed at previous Games. But as the main press center opened, journalists started to complain, after finding access to some sites were blocked and were deemed sensitive to China’s communist leadership.

A senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) official later admitted that some IOC officials had allowed them to block sensitive websites. Wang Hui, a spokeswoman for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games Bid Committee, told a news briefing that China was an open country committed to having an open Internet, Reuters said on their webpage.

How does China control and profit from the Internet?:

“Everyone always brings up Facebook and Twitter, but people around me don’t like to use it,” Wang said, when asked whether foreign visitors would be able to access uncensored Internet if the city won the 2022 Games.

“With our Weibo and WeChat, China’s 650 million [Web users] can freely use these tools to exchange and receive information,” she said, referring to wildly popular Chinese social media tools, which are often subject to quite strict government censorship.

“If you gave these [Facebook and Twitter] to me, I would not use them. I like using Weibo and WeChat.”

“Foreign visitors, including the press, spectators, or athletes, would get open Internet access in 2022,” Wang added, without explaining how exactly this would work.

“Without a doubt, 2022 will be even more open than 2008.”

An IOC evaluation team has been in China and the only other city bidding is Kazakhstan’s Almaty. The final decision will be made in July. Even though Facebook and Twitter are blocked, this did not stop organizers from setting up accounts aimed at a foreign audience, though it has had little effect.

So I guess we just have to wait and see.

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