Recently, several members of ICSD’s IT staff returned from a week-long trip to the People’s Republic of China to get tips on censorship. “We were really pleased with the feedback we got,” said Billy Bozawkowitz, a spokesperson for the group. “The Chinese officials complimented us on blocking both Facebook and Twitter.”
According to Bozawkowitz, specific goals for the trip included finding better ways to filter content it deems inappropriate, like anything that might play into a 21st century sex-positive worldview, or websites that espouse the viewpoints of America’s political enemies, while also making the censorship a lot less random. GoGuardian, a program used by ICSD for censorship, is known for randomly blocking innocuous sites, or causing others to sometimes load without their formatting.
During their visit, the IT staff toured many of China’s historic landmarks, like the Great Firewall of China and the Forbidden Site. “We were really in awe of the majesty of it all. To think that this country can keep 1.4 billion people from fully exercising freedom of speech and figuring out many realities of the world, like the Tiananmen Square Massacre, is simply incredible,” remarked Bozawkowitz.
The group was excited to bring the reality of censorship home to Ithaca. “Many countries around the world censor the internet—everywhere from Cuba to Rwanda to China. We think, from a multiculturalist perspective, that bringing internet censorship back to ICSD will give students a valuable global and diverse perspective.” However, some students have noted differences between ICSD’s and other countries’ styles of censorship. According to David Sheng ‘18, who has spent years in China, “Internet censorship in China is a lot less random; so unless you are searching up things like the Tiananmen Square protests, it’s not much of an issue.”
This is, of course, another reason why the ICSD IT staff are keen to replace GoGuardian with a variant of the Chinese Great Firewall. “However, while the deal is tentative, we want to see what other options there are and what other sources of censorship we could draw from,” said Bozawkowitz.
So, elated at the success of this trip but wanting to gather more information, the IT staff are planning similar visits to both Iran and Russia. “However,” said Bozawkowitz, “it’d be hard, but what we’d really like is to visit North Korea. While we don’t agree with their ideology—we certainly wouldn’t let students research it (true fact: www.korea-dpr.com/ is blocked)—their internet censorship is truly the gold standard.”