Investigation 4 Issue 1: Googled in China

The Internet has made it increasingly difficult for countries to control their citizens’ access to information and place limitations on their expression. Stories critical of human rights or governance in some countries can be published by online newspapers based outside of those countries, yet accessed by their citizens. Websites, blogs and chat rooms critical of political leaders cannot be controlled as easily as printed material such as newspapers.

Faced with this situation, some countries, along with the companies that run Internet search engines, have developed ways of controlling their citizens’ access to information on the Internet, and have increased their surveillance of Internet traffic and chat rooms. Those found to be in breach of censorship guidelines have even been gaoled as political dissidents.

Analysis

Read at least two of the articles below, and respond to the questions that follow, or, in groups, have individual students read an article, and then share their thoughts with the whole group.

Replacement of Google with Alternative Search Systems in China

How do you use the Internet?

  • List the types of information you use the Internet for.
  • What limits would you place on the kind of material people can access or put online?
  • Given the nature of the technology, should the Internet be subject to the same laws as other media?

Using the Internet in China

  • Why do you think that the Chinese Government has placed limits on the information that its citizens can access online?
  • How does the Chinese Government police its Internet laws?
  • According to some commentators, most Internet users in China would not be affected by the Government’s actions. Would it be illegal in China for you to access the information you usually have access to online?

Implications for democracy

  • What are the implications for democratic societies if citizens are limited in the information they can access?
  • What are the responsibilities of citizens in democratic societies to those who do not live in democracies?
  • We often associate global citizenship with the actions of countries and corporations. As a global citizen, or even netizen, does Google have an obligation to the Chinese Government or the principle of freedom of expression?

Activity

  • Use a Cause and Consequence Chart demonstrating the implications for Google, China, and the Internet, if Google had not cooperated with the Chinese Government in limiting access to information on the Internet.

Reporting and presenting your findings

Do Google’s actions in China threaten free speech everywhere? Organise an information/publicity campaign using this question as a centrepiece or title. Your campaign can take the form of:

  • a letter to the editor
  • a brochure
  • an advertisement
  • a poster

 

Introduction | Introductory activity | The Investigations | Investigation 1 | Investigation 2 | Investigation 3 | Investigation 4 | Investigation 4 Issue 1 | Investigation 4 Issue 2